Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Miami Again Turns Up Heat in Fourth Quarter, Beats Boston for 23rd Straight Win

A big fourth-quarter run has become the Miami Heat's modus operandi of late, as the team's winning streak has now reached 23 games, the second longest in NBA history. After using a 28-4 spurt Sunday to finish off Toronto, the Heat needed a big comeback at Boston Monday night -- and got it.

Trailing 96-83 to the Celtics with 8:26 left in the game, LeBron James hit a three, kicking off a 9-0 Miami spurt to cut the deficit to 96-92. After a Boston trey, the Heat went on a 9-1 run to take a 101-100 lead with 2:40 left. Things were tight the rest of the way, with a long two-point jumper by James putting the Heat ahead 105-103 with 10 seconds left. The lead stood, as a final Celtic three-point attempt bounced off the rim. Click here for the fourth quarter play-by-play sheet.

According to a chart accompanying ESPN.com's game article, Miami's 17-point deficit in the first half last night was the team's largest during the streak. The Heat also has faced deficits of 16, 14, and 11 during the streak.


Not many games during the streak have gone to the wire, but when they have, James has come through with game-winning shots. Not only last night, but also in a 97-96 win over Orlando on March 6, did he score the go-ahead points. Where does James rank among the league's best "clutch" players?

The website 82 Games keeps various kinds of statistics on clutch performance. For the most recent full season of available data (2011-12), on one measure of performance under pressure, namely point-production per 48 minutes of "clutch time," James ranked 17th in the league. On another measure, shooting percentage on potential game-winning shots (based on statistics through 2009), James's .340 ranked behind several players, including Carmelo Anthony (.481) and Ray Allen (.385).

Historically, James has shown the ability to take over a game completely down the stretch. The 82 Games statistics may take account of this somewhat, but not totally.


The Heat is not the only NBA team with a long winning streak. The Denver Nuggets won their 12th straight last night.

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