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Miami Heat LeBron James (R) and teammate Chris Bosh (L) high five each other during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, March 17, 2013. (AARON HARRIS/REUTERS)
Miami Heat LeBron James (R) and teammate Chris Bosh (L) high five each other during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, March 17, 2013. (AARON HARRIS/REUTERS)

NBA

LeBron leads Heat past Raptors for 22nd straight win Add to ...

Great. Now we can add wisdom to the list of strengths the Miami Heat have demonstrated during the 22-game win streak they carry into Monday night’s game in Boston against the Celtics.

This is, of course, the team of LeBron James (an evolving player) and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who is adding three-point proficiency to demonstrate offensive aggressiveness in a system where plays aren’t called for him. But as was demonstrated in Sunday’s 108-91 dispatching of the Toronto Raptors, the Heat are also in some ways the team of Ray Allen and, yes, Shane Battier. Allen dropped 16 fourth-quarter points on a stunned Raptors team, then Battier, in his words, “dropped a little wisdom on my guys.”

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“Nothing too deep,” Battier said, both feet immersed in a tub of ice water while wearing a grey V-neck wool sweater and checked shirt. “Just to keep seizing the opportunity in front of us.”

Battier and Allen could be the men of the moment for the Heat. An 11-year veteran, Battier was part of the 2007-08 Houston Rockets team that also won 22 consecutive games. The Heat and Rockets are tied for the second-longest win streak in NBA history, trailing the 33 consecutive wins put together by the Los Angeles Lakers Nov. 5, 1971, to Jan. 7, 1972.

Allen is a much beloved former Celtics player, one of the few Heat players, James noted, who is actually still liked in his former city.

Battier spoke to his teammates following Sunday’s win, which came in the same city in which the Heat’s streak started. That was a 100-85 win for the Heat on Super Bowl Sunday, when the Heat, then 29-14 but in something of a blue mood, convinced head coach Erik Spoelstra to delay a charter flight so they could watch the Super Bowl at Real Sports Bar and Grill. Battier stood up on the bus to the airport and spoke to the team. He did the same Sunday.

“It’s turned into a thing,” Bosh said Sunday, laughing. “That’s Shane. He’s a good teammate and a decent speaker.”

Words can barely describe what the Heat did to the Raptors. Rudy Gay, who had a game-high 27 points, tied the score 77-77 at the 11:08 mark of the fourth quarter, on a 1-and-1 after Wade was whistled for a foul. But Allen scored 11 of his 16 fourth-quarter points in fewer than six minutes to key an outburst in which the Heat went on a 28-4 run to bury the Raptors and leave what had been a roiling, sold-out Air Canada Centre jaw-droppingly quiet and empty in the final two minutes.

The Raptors made just five of 21 field goals in the quarter, four of them in the final three minutes with the Heat emptying their bench. It was a “very professional win,” in the words of Spoelstra, based on a fourth quarter that was, in his opinion, “about as complete a quarter as we played.”

Wade led the Heat with 24 points while James had his career single-season high 32nd double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds. But it was Allen’s fourth-quarter flurry that was the talk of the dressing room.

Asked what has surprised him most about playing with Allen, the venerable 17-year veteran, Bosh smiled and said: “The biggest surprise has been that he misses shots. I don’t remember him doing that [as an opponent].”

“Those threes by Ray … that’s what we feared [as an opponent] for so many years,” said Spoelstra, who says he gathered his players together after Sunday’s win, then quietly stepped aside to give the floor to Battier.

Battier laughed when comparing the two 22-game streaks of which he’s been a part, the only player in NBA history to do so.

“That one [in Houston] was out of left field and much more unexplainable, not that this is, because very few people do it,” said Battier, who had six points and two assists on Sunday in 24 minutes off the bench. “But we did it in Houston with a bunch of role players and journeymen. What is the same here, is that it takes amazing focus and effort. It’s especially tough to do it in February and March, because it’s such a long season.

“But our goals are larger than a 22-game streak,” Battier said. “It’s cool … but we have bigger fish to fry.”

And, it appears, a few more different ways to make it all pan out this season.

 

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