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LeBron lifts Heat to 27th consecutive win

The SportsXchange

ORLANDO -- The Miami Heat didn't earn many style points Monday night, but they scored more than enough points to keep their winning streak alive. And that's all that really mattered.

LeBron James came to the rescue once again, amassing 24 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds to push the Heat to their 27th consecutive victory, 108-94 over the Orlando Magic. Each time the Heat sagged, James was there to lift them up.

The Heat (56-14) are chasing the NBA-record, 33-game winning streak posted by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1972-73 season.

"Each game is not going to be perfect. Sometimes you have to figure them out," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I told our guys, be grateful for the opportunity to be part of this. Stay in the moment."

Magic guard Jameer Nelson led everyone with 27 points and 12 assists. Tobias Harris had 20 points for the Magic (18-53), who lost their seventh consecutive game. Although the Magic never led in the second half, they rallied to tie the Heat at 68 when Nelson hit a 3-pointer.

James made sure it didn't happen again. After a pedestrian first half in which he looked content with his six points, he changed his tune when the Magic challenged him and the Heat after intermission.

"Our historic run is about winning championships. This hasn't been easy for us at all," James said. "We didn't get back in transition, and (we) allowed them to get back in the game. And every team has given us their best. It has been tough all year. It's how you answer another team's run. And we did."

The Heat were without Dwyane Wade, who missed his second consecutive game with a bruised right knee. The Magic were without starters Nikola Vucevic (concussion), Arron Afflalo (hamstring) and Glen Davis (foot).

The Heat got 17 points from Mario Chalmers, 12 points and nine rebounds from Chris Bosh, and a team-high 10 rebounds plus six points from Udonis Haslem.

Miami made 15 of 28 shots (53.6 percent) from 3-point range. Chalmers hit four of his five. Ray Allen hit four of six for his 12 points, and Norris Cole's nine points came on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc. Rashard Lewis, a former Magic player, hit three of five from 3-point range. Often they came on assists from James, who attracts so much attention.

"We have confidence in everyone," James said. "I just try and give it to my teammates. We enjoy each other. We have to share the ball, and if we execute offensively and defensively, we give ourselves a chance."

Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said of James, "He's so big and has the ability to survey the whole floor. When he wants to score, he can score, and when he wants to pass, he can do that as well. He's just so tough to guard."

Miami continues its road trip with games in Chicago, New Orleans and San Antonio before coming home to play the New York Knicks.

The Heat could have buried the Magic early, but they started slowly, allowing Orlando to build a six-point lead in the second quarter. Miami surged just before halftime but couldn't sustain it.

After trailing by nine points at intermission, the Magic tied the game at 68. The Heat, though, closed the third period with a 10-0 run, including seven points from James to regain the momentum.

"They capitalized on our mistakes," Nelson said. "It's tough to defend a team when they have a lot of shooters around LeBron when he plays like that. You can't forget about Bosh and everyone else they have. We turned the ball over 2 or 3 times in a row, and it leads to easy fast-break points that really hurt us tonight."

The Heat led 55-46 at halftime, getting a surprising contribution from Lewis, who has been used sparingly this season since signing as a free agent.

Lewis, who helped the Magic reach the NBA Finals in 2009, hit a trio of 3-pointers in the third period, and he finished with 11 points in 15 minutes. He came into the game averaging just 3.7 points in his 43 games.

The Magic led by as many as six points in the second quarter, but the Heat rallied with a 13-0 run that included two Lewis 3-pointers.

Nelson had 10 points in the first quarter. Mike Miller, who was starting in place of Wade, scored a quick five points in the first five minutes. He finished with seven points and five rebounds in 20 minutes.

"We'll enjoy this ride for now," Miller said. "It's not easy out there. Everyone wants to be the one to break the streak. We're getting everyone's best shot, but that's good for us in the long run."

NOTES: Wade said Monday that the NBA has not yet seen the best of the Heat this season. "We're still getting better. We still haven't reached our potential," he said. "We've still got growing to do." Wade said he expects to play Wednesday in Chicago. He originally hurt the knee against the Magic on March 6 when he banged knees with another player. ... Bosh said before the game that the hoopla surrounding the streak really hasn't changed anything. "It's our normal," Bosh said. "It's the world we live in. Our regular season is like 82 playoff games before the playoffs." ... Vucevic missed a third consecutive game. He averaged 22.5 points and 25 rebounds (yes, averaged) in the two earlier games against the Heat. ... The Magic already were part of this Heat streak before Monday. They were the Heat's 16th victim, having narrowly lost after leading by three with 1:36 remaining. ... Miami's streak includes a 20-0 record since the All-Star break and 17 consecutive victories at home, which is one shy of the franchise record. ... Detroit Tigers star pitcher Justin Verlander, who was training nearby in Lakeland, sat courtside.
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