TORONTO – Back where their winning streak started on Super Bowl Sunday, the Miami Heat kept rolling right into March Madness.
Now it’s on to Boston to face the rival Celtics – the team that ended the last streak this long.
The Heat equaled the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, pulling away in the fourth quarter Sunday to beat the Toronto Raptors 108-91 for their 22nd consecutive victory.
It’s a special ride right now that we’re on, LeBron James said. The best thing about it is we’re doing it together.
James had 22 points and 12 rebounds for his career-best 32nd double-double of the season; Dwyane Wade had 24 points and nine assists; and Ray Allen scored 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for the defending NBA champions.
Chris Bosh finished with 18 points as the Heat matched the 22 consecutive wins recorded by the 2007-08 Houston Rockets. The NBA’s longest streak is 33 games, set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
Miami will try to move into sole possession of second place today when it visits the Celtics – who ended the Rockets’ run five years ago and have won 11 in a row at home.
If there’s any group that would be motivated in a circumstance like this, it’s that team in green, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. I don’t know if the streak will be a big factor, but they love playing against us, and vice versa. That’s what happens when you meet a team consecutively in the playoffs. There’s a history there, and that’s what makes these games special.
The Heat have faced the Celtics twice so far this season. They blew out Boston 120-107 in Miami on opening night, then lost 100-98 in double-overtime on the road Jan. 27, the day Boston learned that Rajon Rondo needed knee surgery.
They played better than us for a large part of that game, Spoelstra said.
Winners of two straight, the Celtics may be without veteran forward Kevin Garnett today. The 15-time All-Star sat out Saturday’s victory over Charlotte with a strained left thigh and is day-to-day.
We have to treat them with the respect they deserve, Spoelstra said. Regardless of who plays for them, that’s a team that will come out with an incredible amount of urgency.
Wade called the looming matchup with Boston a great challenge.
I think we’ll be ready for it, he said. We’ve got to get our rest and we’ve got to know we’re going to have a dog fight on our hands.
Heat forward Shane Battier, who played on the 2007-08 Rockets, inspired his teammates with a speech after their Feb. 3 win over Toronto. The 11-year veteran spoke again after Sunday’s victory, an address that Spoelstra called passionate and pure.
Coach Riley gets paid close to six figures for his speeches, Spoelstra said, referring to former Heat coach and current team president Pat Riley. I don’t know what Shane should charge now, but he should get something.
Miami blew it open Sunday behind Allen’s three-point shooting after Toronto tied it at 77 early in the fourth quarter.
Those (three-pointers) are what we feared for so many years (when Allen was with Boston), Spoelstra said. He can turn a game around just like that.