LeBron James scored 25 points as the Miami Heat overcame a 27-point deficit in the third quarter and won their 24th straight game, 98-95 over the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night to extend the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
The Heat are within nine games of matching the record of 33 consecutive wins held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
James and his teammates have insisted the record isn’t one of their goals, and for more than 30 minutes the defending champions seemed disinterested and on the verge of losing for the first time since Feb. 1. Miami trailed 67-40 with 7:44 left in the third quarter.
But behind the irrepressible James, who added 12 rebounds and 10 assists, the Heat inched closer to history by matching the biggest comeback in the NBA this season, according to STATS.
James had 14 points in the fourth as Miami completed its second straight comeback. The Heat rallied from 17 down — 13 in the fourth quarter — to beat Boston 105-103 Monday night and snap a tie with the 2007-08 Houston Rockets for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
Although the Cavs were missing All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao — their top three scorers — they pushed Miami to the limit.
It wasn’t until James, playing his fourth game back in Cleveland since leaving as a free agent in 2010, made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left that Miami could relax a little. The Cavs had one last chance to tie it, but C.J. Miles was long with a 3-pointer in the final second, letting Miami off the hook.
Following the game, James stopped to sign a few autographs as he made his way to Miami’s locker room. This was much tougher than he and the Heat could have imagined.
Mario Chalmers added 17 points and Dwyane Wade had 11 for the Heat, who outscored the Cavs 30-18 in the fourth quarter and 64-40 in the second half.
Wayne Ellington had 20 points and Tristan Thompson 18 for Cleveland, which went from a stunning upset to blowing the biggest lead in a loss in franchise history.
This game had a little of everything, including a fan running on the floor in the fourth quarter. The young man was wearing a T-shirt that said: “We Miss You, 2014 Come Back,” a reference to James’ possible free agency and return to Cleveland, where he played seven seasons.
James patted the fan on the head as security rushed him off the floor.
The start of the game was delayed 35 minutes because of a spill on the floor caused by condensation from a carbon dioxide container inside the scoreboard.
James scored eight straight points to open the fourth, hitting a 3-pointer to tie it at 77. He then turned toward the crowd and delivered an icy stare.