The Miami Heat's winning streak continues to grow. While the team insists they're focused on the bigger picture, a home matchup with the struggling Philadelphia 76ers seems to pose little threat to the team's red-hot run.
Miami can win its 17th straight game, matching the 12th-longest streak in NBA history and the league's best this season, with a victory over the Sixers on Friday night.
The Heat (45-14) already defeated Philadelphia once during the streak, 114-90 on Feb. 23, and now look for their 13th consecutive win in this regular-season series.
Eleven of the Heat's 16 straight victories -- one shy of the Clippers' run to close 2012 -- have come by double digits. However, three of four this month have been by seven points or fewer.
They needed some late-game heroics from LeBron James in a 97-96 win over Orlando on Wednesday. James provided the game-winning layup with 3.2 seconds left to extend the franchise-record streak, though the team doesn't sound preoccupied with the number.
"It really doesn't affect us," said Dwyane Wade, averaging 27.7 points and shooting 61.9 percent over the last seven games. That stretch includes 33 points on 14-of-18 shooting against Philadelphia.
"In a sense, we want to win, and we want to win every game we play. The day it comes where our streak gets broken we move on to the next game. Obviously, it is great, when you look back at it one day and say, 'Oh, we won that many games in a row.' But right now, we are just playing."
Instead, Miami still has its focus set on winning a second straight championship. A win Friday is the next step on that road, as the Heat would become the first team to clinch a playoff spot -- with 22 games to play.
"We don't even talk about it," James said of the streak, during which he's averaging 28.2 points and shooting 61.0 percent. "We don't really get caught up into the streak at all. What we are trying to do is bigger than a streak."
The Sixers (23-37) will try to avoid becoming the first team to fall prey to Miami twice during the streak, but their prospects don't appear favorable as they've dropped three in a row and 10 of 11. Philadelphia also has lost 11 straight road games after a 107-97 defeat at Atlanta on Wednesday and hasn't won away from home since New Year's Day.
Miami's only three home losses have been to teams with winning records, and the 76ers have been below .500 for quite some time.
Fatigue may still be an issue for coach Doug Collins' team, which already appeared worn out at times against the Hawks. Friday will be the Sixers' ninth game in 14 days.
"We tried to give it our all, especially at first," said Jrue Holiday, shooting 13 for 48 (27.1 percent) over the last three games. "Sometimes when fatigue kicks in, it's hard to concentrate ... I think we just need some rest."
Philadelphia allowed Miami to shoot 58.4 percent in the first meeting as James had 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for one of his three triple-doubles this season.
The Heat offense has cooled a bit, getting held under 100 points in four straight games to tie a season high, but the defense has been solid. They've held those four opponents to averages of 90.3 points and 25.3 percent 3-point shooting while forcing 16.8 turnovers per game.
From Elias: If the Heat can win their 17th straight game Friday against the 76ers, they will tie the 1959-60 Celtics for the 3rd-longest win streak by a defending NBA champion. Various versions of the Celtics are the only other defending champs to win 16 straight games, with the longest streak being 19 games by the 2008-09 team. The Sixers did snap 2 of these long win streaks, but both those came over 30 years ago.
From Elias: Miami knows all too well about streaks and tomorrow they have a chance to extend another when they face the 76ers. The Heat have won 12 straight games against Philly... their 2nd longest active streak against any opponent... 1 shy of tying their longest active mark.