It’s not a LeBron James winning streak. It’s a Miami Heat winning streak.
If there was any confusion on that point, the reigning NBA champions might have cleared that up Sunday night.
Mario Chalmers scored 26 points, Chris Bosh added 24 and the Heat won their 18th straight game, easily topping the Indiana Pacers 105-91 — even with James scoring only a season-low 13, yet clearly helping control play with seven assists and six rebounds.
“That’s the thing about our team,” Chalmers said. “We can click on all cylinders.”
The streak ties the seventh longest in NBA history and is the league’s best since the Boston Celtics won 19 straight in November and December 2008.
“We just did what we’re supposed to do,” said Dwyane Wade, who added 23 points and six steals for Miami. “Win at home.”
Ray Allen added 11 for Miami (47-14), which now has a victory over every NBA team this season. The Heat had been 0-2 against the Pacers.
“When you can win like this, we can go home, we can breathe easier, food tastes better, it makes life a lot better,” Allen said. “That’s the goal, and I’m sure everybody in this locker room will say the same.”
David West scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half for the Pacers, who fell nine games behind Miami in the Eastern Conference standings. Roy Hibbert scored 15, D.J. Augustin had 14 and Paul George scored 10 for Indiana.
The Heat held a 27-15 edge in points off turnovers and finished the game shooting 56 percent compared with 41 percent by Indiana.
“We didn’t compete from the opening tip,” West said. “I just don’t think we brought enough competitive fire. LeBron James has 13 points and these other guys — Chalmers has 26 — it’s just not enough. We didn’t compete enough. You can’t beat a team like that in their building as well as they’re playing without competing.”
Those “other guys” did their jobs, none better than Chalmers.
Miami’s point guard needed only nine shots to get his 26 points, going 5 for 6 from 3-point range and making all seven of his free throws. He also grabbed seven rebounds, tying a career high.
Since Nov. 17, 2010, there have been only two instances of a player scoring at least 26 points on nine shots or less, according to STATS LLC: Chalmers on Sunday, and a 27-point effort from Chris Paul earlier this season.
“All your guys have to be live options, and Rio took that to heart,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He took shots he was capable of making. ... He must be aggressive against the better defensive teams in the league.”
The Pacers warmed up at the basket the Heat typically use, and just about every starter kept pregame pleasantries such as handshakes and quick hugs to a minimum. There were moments of physicality, but nothing near the level of those body-flying, blood-drawing clobberings that came during last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
Then again, that series was competitive throughout. This game was essentially over just after halftime.
Miami led by nine after the opening quarter, the second-largest deficit the Pacers faced after 12 minutes all season. Indiana hardly folded. The Pacers used a 24-14 run to get within two when West scored with 2:57 left before the half. The margin was still only six in the final minute before intermission.
But the Heat couldn’t have scripted a better final 6.9 seconds of the half.
After a deflection sent all the defensive matchups askew, James found himself being guarded 1-on-1 by Hibbert. So he simply drove past the 7-foot-2 center for a slam. Wade then stole the ball from George near midcourt with about 3 seconds left, took a couple dribbles and hit a 12-footer over Hibbert’s outstretched arm as time expired, giving Miami a 56-46 lead at the break.
Miami missed its first shot of the second half, then didn’t miss another field-goal attempt for eight minutes.
“We used that momentum,” James said.
Seven straight makes by Miami fueled what became a 21-7 run and essentially took away any mystery about the outcome. What was an eight-point game turned into a 77-55 Heat lead, the margin exactly doubling the biggest leads Miami held over Indiana in the first two meetings between the clubs this season — combined.
From there, yes, there were reminders that these teams aren’t exactly fond of one another.
Stephenson, who made a choke sign at the Heat during last year’s playoffs then was the subject of a flagrant foul from now-former Heat backup Dexter Pittman later in that series, drove the lane with 3:05 left in the third period and drew a hard foul from Shane Battier. Stephenson remained down for a few moments, and a video review confirmed that Battier made a play on the ball. So anything beyond a common shooting foul wasn’t merited.
It might have fired up Indiana a bit as the Pacers scored the final nine points of the third quarter to get within 79-65.
They could have gotten two points closer if not for a brilliant defensive play by James in the final seconds. George got free for a layup, but James stalked him on the break and swatted away the shot.
“Tough loss,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Give credit to the Heat for really outplaying us.”
It’s not a LeBron James winning streak. It’s a Miami Heat winning streak.
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