Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat star, thought it was "great in the larger scheme of things" that his team struggled to beat the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night for their 20th straight victory.
"Right now we're preparing for the play-offs," Wade said after Miami rallied for a 98-94 victory, "so this was good, because we will have these same moments again."
LeBron James, who had 27 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, hit the go-ahead free throw with 1:12 left, and Wade added four of his 21 points in the closing seconds to lift Miami (49-14).
The Heat became only the fifth team in NBA history to win at least 20 straight. The others were the 1971/72 Lakers (33), the 2007/08 Rockets (22), the 1970/71 Bucks (20) and the 1947/48 and 1948/49 Washington Capitols (20), whose streak spanned two seasons.
The Heat also ran their winning streak over Philadelphia to 14.
"We just don't panic," James said. "Our main goal is to win the game. It's not to blow a team out. Whatever the case may be, we just want to play the game. Wherever the game takes us in 48 minutes, we're ready for it."
Thaddeus Young had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Sixers (24-40), who lost for the sixth time in seven games and the 13th time in 15 tries. Jrue Holiday had 21 points and seven assists.
The Heat held an 80-70 lead with 8:56 left, but the Sixers scored 15 of the game's next 17 points to go up 85-82 with 4:38 to play. Holiday drilled a pair of 3-pointers in that run, the first after falling to one knee and righting himself, and Dorell Wright added five of his 13 points.
Miami stormed back to claim an 89-87 lead on Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 3:11 to play. The Sixers tied it on Evan Turner's basket, and after Chris Bosh dropped in a layup with 2:30 left, Holiday stormed down the lane and dunked on James to forge the night's last tie, at 91-91.
James then began the game-ending 7-3 run by making his free throw. After a Holiday turnover, James twice missed from point-blank range, but Wade was there for the tip-in with 29.4 seconds left. He added two free throws with 22.3 seconds to play, and after Wright's 3-pointer cut the gap to 96-94, James sank two more foul shots with 18 seconds left.
"Regardless of who you're playing or what's laid out in front of you, you focus on the task at hand, and the guys took that to heart," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I'm sure the guys felt a little bit of fatigue going through there, but everybody has to deal with it."
Turner finished with 15 points for the Sixers. Allen had 12 and Bosh 10 for Miami. Chris Andersen also scored 10 for the Heat.
"I couldn't be more proud of the way our guys fought, kept battling and battling and battling," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "We had a lot of guys play very, very well. At the end, (we) just couldn't come up with that one rebound."
Wizards 106 Bucks 93
The Washington Wizards let all of a 20-point lead slip away, but they still came away with a 106-93 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Wizards (21-42) went from up 66-46 early in the third quarter to trailing 78-75 entering the fourth after Ersan Ilyasova's offense keyed 32-9 run for the Bucks.
Instead of fading away against the potential play-off team, Washington scored the first seven points of the final period and turned the momentum into an 18-6 spurt.
John Wall led Washington with 23 points and 10 assists.
Pacers 107 Timberwolves 91
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert is finally making up for a slow start to the season.
Hibbert scored a season-high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go with 12 rebounds in the Pacers 107-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The victory allowed the Pacers to keep pace with the New York Knicks in the race to finish with the second best record in the Eastern Conference.
Swingman Paul George added 17 points for the Pacers. Point guard Ricky Rubio had 21 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Timberwolves.
Celtics 112 Raptors 88
Rebounding from a dreadful loss in Charlotte, the Boston Celtics ended a two-game losing streak by running away with a 112-88 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Paul Pierce, given the night off in a 100-74 loss in Charlotte Tuesday, returned with 15 points in 25 minutes, as the Celtics, who lost both games of a two-game road trip, ran their record to 15-6 since losing guard Rajon Rondo for the season to a knee injury.
The Celtics, who led by as many as 26 in the fourth quarter, won their 10th straight at home and have beaten the Raptors 10 straight times at TD Garden. They are 2-0 overall against Toronto this season.
Hawks 96 Lakers 92
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks, both fighting for play-off position and both playing for the second consecutive night, played a tough, physical game at Philips Arena. The Hawks, down two starters, outlasted the Lakers 96-92, despite a 3-point shot by Kobe Bryant with 18 seconds left.
Al Horford, in the absence of the injured Josh Smith, set the tone for the Hawks at both ends of the court. He scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, the final one with 33 seconds left in the game.
Devin Harris, starting at point guard for the injured Jeff Teague, had only eight points through three quarters, but scored nine straight midway through the fourth quarter to finish with 17 points.
Bryant finished with 31 points but missed a jump shot with 3.9 seconds left that would have tied the game.
Thunder 110 Jazz 87
For the past month, every time Utah has taken the court, it has been fighting for its play-off lives. It has no room for error.
Yet, that was not the way the Jazz took the court Wednesday. Facing Oklahoma City, Utah played as if the season was over as the Thunder won 110-87 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With the LA Lakers losing also, Utah (33-32) remained one game behind the eighth and final play-off spot in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City (48-18) didn't play up to its normal standards, either. Coming off its thrashing at the hands of San Antonio, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks had hoped to see a better offensive showing. Instead, his team shot 50 percent from the field and racked up 25 turnovers.
Rockets 111 Suns 81
For one night at least, the Houston Rockets channeled the ire of their coach into a spirited performance, blistering the Phoenix Suns 111-81 at Toyota Center.
Houston coach Kevin McHale had been seething for days following last Saturday's loss in Phoenix, confronting the Rockets with his disgust.
Following an uneven start the Rockets (35-30) responded to the challenge and took control, uncharacteristically, on the defensive end.
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