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Heat win 17th straight, clinch playoffs in victory over 76ers

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Associated Press
3/8/2013 10:59:38 PM
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MIAMI -- So many streaks. And the Miami Heat made sure they all survived.

LeBron James scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Dwyane Wade added 22 points and the Heat pulled away late to beat Philadelphia 102-93 on Friday night -- their 12th straight regular-season win over Philadelphia, their 13th in a row at home and most importantly, their 17th straight victory overall.

For good measure, it all came on a night where James got to take the final 8 minutes off, a bit of unplanned rest that started with the outcome not exactly decided, either.

"We got better tonight," James said. "And that's the most important thing."

Chris Bosh scored 16 points, Ray Allen added 12 and Shane Battier scored 11 for the Heat, who matched the 12th-longest winning streak in NBA history and became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot this season.

James went to the bench with 8:02 left and with the Heat only leading by eight. Philadelphia never got any closer than that from there, and James wound up logging his 11th-shortest night of the season in terms of minutes, playing just over 34 on Friday.

"Good team win, particularly in the second half," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Our bench was really dialed in."

Thaddeus Young scored 25 points, Dorell Wright added 14 and Spencer Hawes finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, who lost their 12th straight on the road. Jrue Holiday added a game-high 13 assists for Philadelphia.

The 76ers got outscored 48-31 in the final 19 minutes.

"I've very proud of them," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. "Our guys fought tonight. They did a tremendous job and it's just that Miami is a great, great team and that's what happens with great teams. They ratchet it up on you and squeeze you for about five or six minutes and then they take the game. That's what championships have always done, so I couldn't ask any more of our guys. I thought they did everything they could do."

Down by nine in the third quarter, the Heat took a 76-75 lead when James beat the buzzer to end the period with a 3-pointer, then took control with what became a 17-4 run over a 5-minute stretch of the fourth.

"Anytime you can hit a big shot like that at the end of the quarter, it definitely is a momentum-shifter," Young said. "And I think that's what got them going and they came out and just jumped out on us on the fourth."

Philadelphia gave the Heat all they wanted for the first three quarters, taking a quick 18-11 lead, then making its first five attempts from 3-point range in the second quarter, and finally going on a spurt in the third that had Miami facing a 60-51 deficit at one point.

Much as they did in the first 16 of these wins, the Heat -- who host Indiana in a playoff rematch on Sunday -- found a way.

Miami had 10 assists on 12 field goals in the third quarter and took a second-half lead for the first time on a brilliant move by Bosh -- who spun to his right, got fouled by Hawes and scored with his left hand anyway, all while being off-balance. His free throw put the Heat up 65-64.

Wright, whose career started in Miami, hit a 3-pointer to put Philadelphia back up 71-67, before the Heat closed the third with a trio of 3-pointers from Mario Chalmers, Battier and then James, whose buzzer-beater came seconds after he was hit in the throat area by Philadelphia's Damien Wilkins.

James shook off the hit, made the 3, then took a brief look at the Philadelphia bench for emphasis.

He was fired up, and the mood permeated everyone on the Miami side in the fourth, when the Heat pulled away.

"With the atmosphere here in Miami and with what we had on the line with the streak that everybody outside is probably tired of hearing about, we knew they were going to play very well," Wade said. "We were able to work the game, work the game, until we were able to pull away."

Miami had some big moments in the early going, including one possession where James had three offensive rebounds -- two off his own misses -- before scoring, and another when Chris Andersen blocked shots by Evan Turner in succession to set up a possession where James got an alley-oop dunk.

But Philadelphia didn't go away, fueled by the second-quarter 3-point barrage, and nine points by Wright in just 4:28 of the third quarter.

The fourth, however, was all Miami, even with James on the bench for the final minutes.

NOTES: Miami clinched a playoff spot with 22 games remaining, five games faster than any other team in Heat history. ... It was the 450th Heat home game, including playoffs, since Wade was drafted in 2003. Miami has won 315 of those games, exactly 70 per cent. ... Hawes was 4 for 5 in the first half, then 0 for 5 in the third quarter. ... The 76ers won three road games in a four-day span of November. They're 3-21 away from home since. ... It was Miami's 105th straight home sellout, the franchise's second-longest streak. ... Wade has at least one steal in 21 straight games, matching the longest such streak of his career. ... James became the 70th NBA player with 1,000 3-pointers made, according to STATS.

LeBron James (Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
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