James hits game winner to extend streak
Miami escapes 97-96
LeBron James scored 26 points, including a go-ahead layup with 3.2 seconds left, and the Miami Heat scrambled late to beat the Orlando Magic 97-96 on Wednesday night and extend their franchise-record winning streak to 16 games.
Dwyane Wade scored 24 points and Chris Bosh added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who blew a 20-point, second-half lead and then rallied from a five-point deficit in the final minutes.
Nic Vucevic had 25 points and 21 rebounds for the Magic, who got 16 points apiece from Jameer Nelson and Tobias Harris, 13 from Arron Afflalo and 12 from Maurice Harkless.
James drove diagonally through the lane for the go-ahead shot, getting to the left side of the glass for the layup that saved Miami — and its streak.
Vucevic now has two games of 20 rebounds or more in his career — both this season, and both against Miami. He had a 20-point, 29-rebound effort in a loss to the Heat on Dec. 31.
But he was one of three Magic players to foul out in the final minutes, as Orlando let a golden chance go awry.
Nelson hit a jumper with 1:36 left, giving the Magic a 96-93 lead. James missed two 3-pointers on the next Miami possession, and on the ensuing Miami trip, Harris drove from the left baseline but his basket was waved off, with Shane Battier beating him to the spot and drawing an offensive foul, Harris' sixth of the night.
Miami tried for the tie twice on the next trip, but Wade and Allen missed 3-pointers. Bosh was fouled on a rebound — the sixth on Vucevic, making him the third Orlando player to reach the limit in the final minutes. Bosh made both free throws to get the Heat within one with 38 seconds remaining.
Al Harrington missed a wild 3-pointer, and James got the rebound to seal the stop Miami desperately needed. So with 12.6 seconds left, the Heat got the ball and a chance to win.
James delivered. Orlando had no timeouts, and only managed a 3-point try by Afflalo from near midcourt as time expired.
The Heat came in with 44 wins, the Magic with 44 losses, and after two possessions of the second half the reigning NBA champions had a 20-point lead.
And then about one quarter later, they were losing.
Vucevic had 10 points and nine rebounds in the third quarter alone — the Heat, as a team, had four rebounds in the period — and the tide of the game totally turned in a matter of minutes. What was a 60-40 Miami lead got whittled down steadily, with the Magic getting within 15 after a jumper by Afflalo, then 10 on a hook shot by Vucevic, five on a 3-pointer by Harris and finally within 77-74 when Vucevic closed the quarter with two free throws.
Orlando didn't stop there, either. Nelson made a contested 3-pointer to tie the game at 79-all with 10:29 left, and his three-point play about a minute later gave the Magic their first lead of the night.
Vucevic added back-to-back baskets, and suddenly, Orlando was up 86-81 with 8:29 left — meaning the Magic run, in about 14 minutes of actual playing time, was a 46-21 burst. Miami answered with the next six points to briefly re-take the lead, but Vucevic struck again with 5:03 remaining, getting a short shot off the glass to drop and stake the Magic to a 91-87 edge.
It was nearly enough.
NOTES: James was in double figures for his 200th straight regular-season game with the Heat, extending his franchise record. ... Magic coach Jacque Vaughn played against Miami 30 times in his career, his teams going 15-15. ... Battier extended his streak of games with a made 3-pointer to 17, tying the third-best stretch of his career. ... The Heat have honored a military member who has returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan before games in Miami for the past several seasons. Their honoree on Wednesday: Army 1st Sgt. Darrell Williams, who returned just two weeks ago from serving a tour in Afghanistan — and is the first cousin of Bosh's wife, Adrienne Bosh.
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