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Heat win 18th straight game

The SportsXchange

MIAMI - There seems to be no stopping the Miami Heat.

The NBA's defending champions won their 18th consecutive game Sunday night, drilling the only team they had yet to beat this season. The question now is obvious: How long can they keep winning?

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, however, is not interested in such talk.

"I'm not disrespecting (the streak)," Spoelstra said after the Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers, 105-91, Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. "But that's certainly not our discussion right now. Our focus now is about resting."

The team that ends the Heat streak may end up being an unexpected source. After all, the Washington Wizards beat Miami this season.

But, for the purpose of analysis, the next four challenges seem surmountable for the Heat: a home game against Atlanta and road gams against Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Toronto.

That would give the Heat a 22-game win streak, tied with Houston for the second-longest streak all-time. Miami's next game after that would be March 18 at Boston, an intense rivalry.

The all-time record of 33, set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, is, at the moment, a bit too far down the road.

As for Sunday's win, the Heat raced to a 23-point lead midway through the third quarter and held on from there, shooting 55 percent from the floor against the team with the best field-goal percentage defense in the league.

Perhaps the scariest part of the win was the fact that LeBron James scored only 13 points and yet the Heat still rolled. James did have seven assists and six rebounds.

Point guard Mario Chalmers was the surprising scoring star for the Heat, putting up 26 points. It was just the second time he has led the Heat in scoring this season, and he is the only Miami player besides James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to emerge with scoring honors.

Chalmers was nearly perfect Sunday, making 7 of 9 shots, including 5 of 6 from three-point range. He also went 7-for-7 on free throws.

"The Heat shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They had great ball movement."

Pacers star Paul George said his team used a strategy that had worked previously against Miami.

"We did a great job (in past games) of guarding them and making them shoot over us," he said. "This time, they made shots."

Bosh had 24 points, making 11 of 15 shots as he consistently beat Pacers big man Roy Hibbert, who was reluctant to leave the paint. With Bosh so effective on mid-range jumpers, that was a mismatch.

Bosh said the Heat's two previous losses to the Pacers this season had his team's attention.

"We're very competitive, and, especially in the fashion that we lost (against Indiana), we have a lot more pride than that," he said. "We're trying to defend our title. And in order to do that, we have to beat good teams. (Indiana) is a good team."

Wade, who had 23 points, was crucial to the win -- but not only for his offense. He drew the defensive assignment on George and held the Pacers star to 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting. Wade also had six steals.

"Dwyane was certainly dialed in - anticipating," Spoelstra said. "Whenever he has steals high like that, it means he's covering some ground.

"Both those guys (Wade and James) took the challenge against very athletic perimeter players. LeBron was able to chase around (Lance) Stephenson, (holding him to six points)."

With the win, the Heat improved to 29-3 at home this season.

The Heat win streak is the longest in the NBA this season, exceeding the Clippers' 17-game run.

Also left in the Heat's rear-view mirror is the 17-game streak put together by the 1959-60 Boston Celtics that had been the longest ever by a defending NBA champion.

The Heat have also exceeded the NFL Miami Dolphins for the longest single-season streak of any Miami pro franchise. The Dolphins posted a perfect season in 1972, going 17-0.

Miami has already clinched a playoff berth. It accomplished that on Friday night with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers. It is the quickest clinch in Heat history.

The Pacers are the last team to beat the Heat, winning in Indiana 102-89 on Feb. 1. The Heat, though, have beaten every team in the league this season - the first time in franchise history they have accomplished that feat.

Vogel, whose team is known for its tough defense, said the Pacers were beaten at their own game on Sunday.

"The Heat turned it up a notch in the second half," he said. "They were under our chins on every catch, and we didn't handle that pressure well enough.

"We are a young team. Paul George and Lance Stephenson are still very young players, and their superstars (Wade and James) got the best of them tonight.

"But we have shown resolve all year. I have every confidence we are going to respond in the playoffs."

Notes: Vogel said he is "hopeful" Indiana will get a quick return from injured forward Danny Granger, who missed the first 54 games of the season with a knee injury. He has since re-aggravated the injury. "He had a minor setback with having to miss a week," Vogel said. "We are hoping he gets back in the rotation, and, by playoff time, he can play 35 to 40 minutes. That's the goal." ... Entering Sunday, the Pacers were 2-0 against the Heat this season, although both games were in Indiana. In last year's playoffs, the Pacers had a 2-1 series lead before the Heat stormed back to win in six games. ... With an official announcement expected on Tuesday, the Pacers are set to play the Rockets in an exhibition in the Philippines on Oct. 10. Spoelstra, who has Filipino ancestry on his mother's side, said he believes tremendous interest will be generated for the game. "It's an exciting thing that the country will celebrate every single month leading up to that game," he said. "The fans are incredible there." ... Up next, the Heat play host to Atlanta on Tuesday before traveling to Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Heat have won 13 straight games against Philadelphia. ... The Pacers return home for two straight games: Wednesday vs. Minnesota and Friday against the Lakers.
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