Published March 26, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla. – LeBron James was in perfect position for the rebound he needed for a triple-double. Near the rim, no Orlando opponents in his way, he readied his hands as he gazed toward the basket.
Only problem was, E'Twaun Moore made the shot.
James' night was complete a few moments later. No triple-double, the 24th time he fell short of the feat by exactly one assist or one rebound. And that was basically the only thing the Miami Heat could have possibly been disappointed about on Monday night.
Miami's winning streak is now 27 games, six shy of matching the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers for the longest such run in league history, after James finished with 24 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds and the Heat pulled away down the stretch to beat the Orlando Magic 108-94.
"We'll take this," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And we'll move on to the next game of our business trip."
That comes Wednesday in Chicago.
James has 36 triple-doubles in his career, and has been one play away from two dozen more. The only reason for him to still be on the floor with less than 4 minutes to go in a 20-point game was to see if he could add one more to the collection — and when it didn't happen, he feigned a bit of anger.
"I'm going to go down as the almost-triple-double king," James said.
That wasn't what the Heat will remember from Monday night, however. A 20-2 run spanning the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth will be what stands out, because that 4½-minute stretch turned a tie game into a runaway.
James started the burst with a dunk one possession after badly missing a layup and showing signs of frustration.
He got mad.
The Magic had no chance.
"We did enough late in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter to come away with this win," Spoelstra said. "That was some of our best in that fourth quarter on both ends of the court. ... Before that, it was a little bit of a sleepwalk."
Mario Chalmers scored 17, and Chris Bosh and Ray Allen each added 12 for Miami, giving Spoelstra his 250th win.
Jameer Nelson had 27 points and 12 assists for the Magic, who got 20 points from Tobias Harris. And Magic coach Jacque Vaughn didn't exactly seem to think after the game that Miami's winning streak will end anytime soon.
"I'm far from the expert on that. ... That's a very good ballclub led by a very good player," Vaughn said. "It's impressive what they're doing."
The four-game road trip for Miami continues in Chicago on Wednesday, followed by a Friday matchup in New Orleans — which snapped Denver's 15-game winning streak on Monday night. Miami's trip ends Sunday in San Antonio.
"When they got rolling, we had to try to stop them," said Orlando's Kyle O'Quinn. "But they got rolling too quick."
Both teams were missing key components, Dwyane Wade for Miami and Nik Vucevic for Orlando.
Wade missed his second straight contest with a sore right knee, but plans to play at Chicago on Wednesday. Vucevic sat out his third straight game while dealing with a mild concussion, a big blow for Orlando since he averaged a staggering 22.5 points and 25 rebounds in two games against Miami earlier this season.
A 9-2 run early in the third gave Miami what was then its biggest lead, 64-53. Instead of deflating the Magic, it seemed to almost inspire the hosts, who answered with probably their best 5-minute stretch of the game, capped by a 3-pointer by Nelson with 3 minutes left that tied the game at 68-all.
And when James missed a layup at the other end, then got called for a foul after the rebound, Orlando may very well have been thinking that the streak could soon be snapped.
"They're a great team," Magic rookie Maurice Harkless said. "They got a lot of different weapons out there. Obviously there's a reason why they've won so many games in a row. They just took it to another level at that point in the game. We couldn't punch back. They hit us and we couldn't find a way to hit back."
Miami needed only 2 minutes to close the quarter with 10 unanswered points, with James doing either the orchestrating or the performing. He got loose on a curl for a dunk to start the run, and the Heat took off.
Chris Andersen — the Heat are now 29-1 when he plays — got Miami the ball with a spectacular block against Harkless. James then cleared everyone out to drive on Harkless, score and get fouled for a three-point play.
Harkless threw the ball into the sideline seats on Orlando's next possession, and James found Allen for a 3-pointer. Harkless had another turnover with 19.5 seconds left and then fouled James with 4.2 ticks remaining. James missed both shots, but got his own rebound, was fouled by Harris and made those two ensuing free throws for a 78-68 Miami lead.
"Any time LeBron gets a dunk, that excites everybody," Chalmers said. "Makes us play a little bit harder."
Norris Cole lobbed one off the glass to James for a dunk and an 83-70 lead, Allen made another 3-pointer on the next possession, James set up Andersen for an alley-oop dunk as half the arena roared in delight as the reigning champions pushed the margin to 18.
Streak, not over.
NOTES: There was practically an All-Star baseball team in attendance, with Ken Griffey Jr., Detroit slugger Prince Fielder and Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia all near one another opposite the Miami bench. Tigers stars Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera also were in the crowd, as was Masters champion Bubba Watson. ... Orlando comes to Miami on April 17 in the regular-season finale for both teams.