Basketball - Miami stretch winning streak to 25 games

LeBron James had 29 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Miami Heat defeated the Detroit Pistons 103-89, extending their winning streak to 25 games, the second-longest run in NBA history.

Basketball - Miami stretch winning streak to 25 games

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LeBron James of the Miami Heat posts up Kyle Singler of the Detroit Pistons during a game at American Airlines Arena (AFP)

Once again the Heat fell behind by double digits - for the third straight game - but that did not seem to bother James.

"I'd rather finish strong," James said, "than start fast and finish weak."

James did the former against Detroit, putting up 29 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the Heat's victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Miami are closing in on the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' NBA record win streak of 33 in a row. Miami's 25 wins have come in a span of 48 days.

The biggest obstacle to the Heat breaking the Lakers' record appears to be a March 31 date at San Antonio. Before that, a trip to Chicago could be tough. An April 2 date with their rivals, the New York Knicks, is another potential roadblock.

The Heat play a stretch that includes, in order, Charlotte, at Orlando, at Chicago, at New Orleans, at San Antonio, the Knicks and at Charlotte.

If the Heat clear all those hurdles, they could tie the record with a home win over Philadelphia April 6 and break the mark with a home game against Milwaukee (April 9).

"It's crazy," James said of Miami's streak.

The Pistons, meanwhile, have lost 10 games in a row, the longest active losing streak in the league. Detroit was led by Greg Monroe, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds.

Detroit led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but that was nothing to a Heat team that this week rallied from 17 down to beat Boston and from 27 down to subdue Cleveland.

The Heat trailed Detroit 54-51 at halftime but surged ahead by outscoring the Pistons 22-14 in the third quarter.

"We were a little bit flat in the first half," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "In the second half, the urgency was much better."

Spoelstra said the Heat's recent slow starts are on his "radar."

"We need to put together a complete game," the coach said.

"We haven't had that energetic start we want. But this team, over the past couple of years, has shown that they can address things and improve."

The Heat improved to 31-3 at home. That ties the Denver Nuggets for the best home record in the league.

Miami is 32-2 this season when shooting at least 50 percent from the floor. The Heat also had their 20th consecutive game of at least 20 assists.

The Heat overcame a poor game by forward Chris Bosh and a couple of injury scares. Bosh scored five points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, although he had a team-high six turnovers. Wade also left the game for several minutes in the third quarter after hurting his wrist on a hard foul from Kyle Singler.

In the fourth quarter, an inadvertent elbow from Heat forward Chris Andersen struck teammate Ray Allen above his eye, drawing blood. Allen, though, returned to the game.

"It's not like they just beat us and no one else," said Pistons point guard Jose Calderon, who had 18 points and seven assists.

"They beat 24 teams before us. A lot of people probably expected them to beat us by 40 or 50 points. But that wasn't going to happen."

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Knicks 99, Raptors 94

The New York Knicks clinched a playoff spot for the third year in a row as they survived a late push from the Toronto Raptors to pick up a 99-94 victory.

Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 36 points while Kenyon Martin had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Alan Anderson had 33 points for the Raptors, including 20 in the second quarter alone.

Raptors star forward Rudy Gay came out of the game and immediately went to the dressing room with 7:04 left in the second quarter with a back problem and didn't return.

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Thunder 97, Magic 89

Kevin Durant had 25 points, including 11 in the final six minutes, to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 97-89 victory over the Orlando Magic.

The Thunder (51-19) snapped a two-game losing streak while the Magic (18-52) lost their sixth consecutive game.

Durant came to the rescue after a second-half Magic rally that tied the game at 86-86. He added eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 19 points and nine assists. Serge Ibaka had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Magic rookie Maurice Harkless scored a career-high 25 points, including 18 in the second half to lead the Magic comeback. Tobias Harris had 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.

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Trail Blazers 104, Hawks 93

The Portland Trail Blazers, fighting for their playoff lives, rode the three-point shot late to beat the Atlanta Hawks 104-93.

Wesley Matthews led the Blazers with 28 points, including 10 points in the second quarter while cashing in on 5-of-8 3-pointers.

The Blazers (33-36), coming off a big win over the Chicago Bulls Thursday night, jumped out to a quick lead, scoring their first eight points in the paint - four from LaMarcus Aldridge and four from J.J. Hickson.

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Pacers 102, Bucks 78

Tyler Hansbrough scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Indiana Pacers' 102-78 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Pacers have won three in a row after dropping four of their previous six games.

Paul George added 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Pacers. Monta Ellis scored a team-high 22 points for Milwaukee.

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Rockets 116, Cavaliers 78

Rockets center Omer Asik provided the oomph Houston needed to control the interior throughout the Rockets' 116-78 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Asik recorded his 29th double-double, pairing 13 points with 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes as the Rockets (38-31) dominated the Cavaliers (22-47) on the glass.

Houston posted a plus-22 rebound margin behind Asik, who offset Cavaliers young big men Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson.

Zeller and Thompson, instrumental in the Cavaliers' run to a substantial lead against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, combined for only 10 points and 13 rebounds against the Rockets.

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Hornets 90, Grizzlies 83

Robin Lopez scored 23 points, including a critical rebound follow with 1:11 left, and rookie Anthony Davis had 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 90-83 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Hornets (24-46) nearly blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead but held on for the win. Leading 76-60 with 9:18 left, the Hornets allowed the Grizzlies to go on a 21-7 run to cut the deficit to 83-81 with 2:37 remaining.

But Greivis Vasquez, who had 12 points and nine assists, canned a 3-pointer from the left wing, and Lopez came out of a scrum under the basket to hit a follow-up shot with 71 seconds left to put the Hornets back up, 88-81.

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Mavericks 104, Celtics 94

The Boston Celtics still haven't recovered from their draining home defeat against the Miami Heat earlier this week and dropped their second consecutive road game, 104-94 to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs never trailed as they bounced back from a double-digit home loss two nights earlier to the Brooklyn Nets.

Dallas built a 30-19 lead in the first quarter against the sluggish Celtics and led by as many as 14 in the third quarter, buoyed by big games from Dirk Nowitzki (22 points), Brandan Wright (23 points) and Vince Carter (17 points).

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Spurs 104, Jazz 97

Tony Parker had 22 points in his return to the San Antonio Spurs, as they defeated the Utah Jazz 104-97 in overtime.

Tim Duncan added 19 points and 16 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard also had 21 and Danny Green 15 as San Antonio (53-16) welcomed back their All Star point guard.

Parker, who sustained a grade 2 sprain to his left ankle on March 1st in a 130-102 win against Sacramento, was expected to miss the whole month of March but returned earlier than expected.

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