Heat-76ers Preview

The Associated Press

There aren't many adjectives remaining to describe the Miami Heat's franchise-best winning streak that has helped them grab the NBA's best record and a commanding lead atop the Eastern Conference.

The Philadelphia 76ers haven't had much good come from a regular-season meeting with the Heat in quite some time.

Miami hits the road Wednesday night looking to become just the fourth team in NBA history to win 20 consecutive games in a single season by earning a 14th straight regular-season victory over Philadelphia.

The Heat (48-14) have overtaken San Antonio for the league's best record and are up on New York and Indiana by 9 1/2 games in the East thanks to their run over the last five-plus weeks.

They beat Atlanta 98-81 on Tuesday to extend the streak to 19 games, during which they've won by an average of 11.5 points.

Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 23 points while LeBron James added 15, seven rebounds and seven assists for Miami, which in the opener of its five-game trip can join the Los Angeles Lakers (33 in 1971-72), Houston (22 in 2007-08) and Milwaukee (20 in 1970-71) as the only teams to win 20 straight in the same season.

"Let's be honest, guys,'' James said. "This is an unbelievable streak that we're on. We're playing great basketball. We're winning in different phases of the game, we're playing different styles. We've won every game - on the road, at home, double-overtime games, end-of-regulation games - whatever the case may be.''

Miami has beaten the 76ers twice during its winning streak and has won 13 straight regular-season meetings by an average of 12.5 points. James recorded a triple-double and Wade finished with a game-high 33 points in a 114-90 road win Feb. 23.

James then had 25 points and 10 rebounds while Wade added 22 points in Friday's 102-93 victory, helping overcome 25 points from Thaddeus Young.

Philadelphia (24-39) has dropped 12 of 14 and is 8 1/2 games back of Milwaukee for the East's final playoff spot, but Spencer Hawes scored a season-high 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and added seven assists in Monday's 106-97 home win over Brooklyn.

The Sixers held off a fourth-quarter rally to snap a five-game losing streak.

"That's been our deal all year - we get going but lose our focus when we let them back in it,'' Hawes said. "We were able to sustain and that was the best 48-minute game we played in a while.''

Jrue Holiday, who has 30 points and 19 assists in this season's two meetings against the Heat, added 15 points and 11 assists Monday. He's averaging an NBA-worst 3.9 turnovers per game, but he committed only one while six players scored in double figures.

"It really does make life a lot easier (when players are hitting shots)," said Holiday, who has 54 assists in his last five games.

The Sixers shot 52.6 percent against Brooklyn - their third-best mark of the season.

"The quality of our shots have been better," coach Doug Collins said. "I attribute that to moving the ball and trying to play a bit quicker rather than running the clock and dribbling so much."

Miami has won 17 of the last 18 meetings, including its five-game victory in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

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