The Miami Heat had just watched the Super Bowl when Shane Battier delivered a speech that left quite the impression.
Whatever he said that night in Toronto, the Heat sure took off from there.
They haven’t come down yet.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh each scored 28 points, and the Heat made it 21 straight wins, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 107-94 on Friday night.
Only three other teams have won 20 in a row in one season, and the Heat now trail just the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33) and the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22) after moving ahead of the 1970-71 Bucks.
The Heat haven’t lost since they fell at Indiana on Feb. 1, and they return Sunday to the place where this streak started two days later, back when they were a mediocre road team barely on top of the Eastern Conference standings.
”I think the biggest thing for our team was watching the Super Bowl and getting away from basketball in a sense and just enjoying each other,” Dwyane Wade said. ”We got the famous speech from Shane Battier and we’ve been rolling ever since.”
What did Battier say?
”You had to be there,” Bosh said. ”It was after watching the Super Bowl. It was a good game, we had a great time. I guess the main focus was that you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”
”It was not so much about him,” he continued. ”He tied in everything. He tied in life to the Super Bowl. It was just everything. It was a good time.”
It’s been nothing but good times for the Heat ever since, although there was a scary moment for them in this game.
That was when Wade walked to the locker room with what the team said was a neck strain after crashing to the court in the early going. The Heat overcame that and led by as much as 17 in the third quarter, then withstood a push by the Bucks to keep the streak going.
Bosh hit from all angles and was 12 of 16 in the game, nailing two 3-pointers. He even converted a four-point play that made it 67-53 about five minutes into the third quarter.
James was his usual dominant self, and Wade finished with 20 points as the Heat avenged a loss at Milwaukee in late December. There’s a chance these two teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs, and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings basically said bring it on.
”I still don’t take anything back about playing Miami in the first round,” he said afterward as he kept his eyes on North Carolina State’s ACC tournament game. ”I still think we match up well against them. We just had an off night tonight.”
Ersan Ilyasova led Milwaukee with 26 points and a season-high 17 rebounds. Jennings scored 21 but was 6 of 15 from the field, and the Bucks shot just over 37 percent. Monta Ellis struggled, finishing with seven points after scoring 26 in the previous game at Washington, and the Bucks dropped their third straight.
Larry Sanders got ejected for the second straight game with 2:44 left after he was called for a foul against James and picked up two technicals.
Despite all those issues, the Bucks cut the lead to 85-79 with 8:53 remaining when J.J. Redick nailed a 3 and Ilyasova hit a free throw after Battier got called for a loose ball foul. Battier then answered with a 3 and Bosh hit a runner to get the lead back up to 11 after Ilyasova’s 3-pointer rimmed out.
The Heat got a major scare when Wade crashed to the court after Sanders blocked his layup.
He took a shot to the head from Sanders’ hip on the follow through and landed hard. Wade stayed down as play went the other way and was tended to for about two minutes underneath the basket after the game was stopped with 7:17 left in the first period.
Wade walked to the locker room and came back out early in the second. He re-entered the game with 7:45 left in the half and quickly hit two free throws and a layup.
Wade said he was examined for a concussion and never lost consciousness, although his hands went numb for a while because he smacked them when he hit the floor. They were still sore after the game.
James scored 17 in the first half, Bosh added 13 points and the Heat shot just under 54 percent on the way to a 51-42 halftime lead.
James threw down a hard dunk off a spin move late in the first quarter and drove for a one-handed reverse jam along the baseline early in the second. He also nailed several turnaround jumpers even though Marquis Daniels was all over him.
Notes:Sanders blamed his ejection on frustration and seemed to infer that the Heat get preferential treatment from the referees. ”I can imagine it’s hard for a referee to ref a Miami Heat game,” he said. Coach Jim Boylan said he would talk to Sanders about toning down his emotions so he doesn’t hurt the team. … Milwaukee did not attempt a free throw in the first half for the second straight game but wound up hitting 19 of 21 in the second half.