Heat overcome huge deficit, run win streak to 24

The jilted billionaire owner offered an olive branch. The

scoreboard leaked fluid, causing a long delay. The home team,

missing its top three scorers, built a mammoth lead over the

defending NBA champions. A fan sprinted onto the court, hoping to

convince LeBron James to come back home.

Just an ordinary night in Cleveland.

James made it a memorable one, and kept Miami’s streak

alive.

Refusing to concede anything, James scored 25 points – 14 in the

fourth quarter – and the Heat, trailing by 27 in the third quarter,

rallied for a 98-95 win Wednesday night over the Cavaliers to

extend their winning streak to 24 games and move within nine of

matching the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers for the longest in NBA

history.

”This was one of the most bizarre, unique days of my life with

everything that happened,” James said. ”It also was one of the

best comebacks I’ve ever been a part of.”

He made it happen.

With the Heat trailing by nine points entering the fourth

quarter, James made a 3-pointer and layup before draining another

long 3 to tie it at 77 with 10:28 left. After his shot dropped

through the net, James turned toward the sellout crowd in Quicken

Loans Arena and delivered any icy stare to many of the same faces

who cheered him during his seven seasons as a member of the

Cavaliers.

This was his moment, the one he and his teammates would

remember.

”When he made that one and turned around and looked at the

crowd, you knew it was coming,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.

James and his teammates have insisted the Lakers’ record, once

believed to be untouchable but now within their reach, isn’t a

goal. And for more than 30 minutes, they seemed disinterested and

were on the verge of losing for the first time since Feb. 1. Miami

trailed 67-40 with 7:44 left in the third quarter, and there

weren’t many signs that they were going to make it a game.

But Shane Battier made three 3-pointers as the Heat closed the

third quarter with a 28-10 run and the irrepressible James, who

added 12 rebounds and 10 assists in 42 minutes, did the rest in the

fourth as the Heat inched closer to history while matching the

NBA’s biggest comeback this season.

It was the second game in a row where the Heat had to rally.

They were down by 17 points – 13 in the fourth quarter – and

stormed back to beat Boston 105-103 on Monday and surpass the

2007-08 Houston Rockets for the second-longest streak in NBA

history.

”I knew there was a lot of time, so we never panicked,” James

said. ”We were down 27 with 18 minutes left. That’s a lifetime in

basketball.”

Although the Cavs were missing All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, Dion

Waiters and Anderson Varejao – their top three scorers – they

pushed Miami to the limit.

It wasn’t until James, playing his fourth game back in Cleveland

since leaving three years ago, made two free throws with 4.7

seconds left that Miami could relax, but just a little.

The Cavs had one last chance to tie it, but C.J. Miles was long

with a 3-pointer in the final second, letting Miami off the hook

and sending the Heat home with a chance to extend their streak to

25 on Friday against Detroit.

Following the game, James stopped to sign a few autographs as he

made his way to Miami’s locker room. This was much tougher than he

and the Heat could have imagined. The win also completed a

five-game road trip, dubbed ”The Reunion Tour” by James because

Miami visited Wade’s home in Milwaukee, Chris Bosh’s former team in

Toronto and Ray Allen’s in Boston.

”The streak wasn’t on my mind, but us getting blown out was,”

James said. ”I was going to be the only guy to take an `L’ on the

reunion tour.”

Mario Chalmers added 17 points and Wade had 11 for the Heat, who

outscored the Cavs 30-18 in the fourth quarter and 64-40 in the

second half.

Wayne Ellington had 20 points and Tristan Thompson 18 for

Cleveland, which went from a stunning upset to blowing the biggest

lead in a loss in franchise history.

”We knew it was coming,” Thompson said of the Heat’s comeback.

”They were the NBA champions last season. They’re not going to lay

down. Champions don’t lay down even when they’re down by 27. We

knew they were going to make a push. Guys went out and made plays,

so you have to give them credit.”

It was a painful blow to the young Cavs and owner Dan Gilbert,

who had a courtside seat to watch James do his thing. When James

left Cleveland as a free agent, Gilbert harshly criticized James in

a letter written to Cavs fans. Gilbert promised Cleveland would win

a title before James, and has said he regrets making the claim.

Last year, James said it would be ”great” to play in Cleveland

again, but that he had yet to work out his differences with

Gilbert. While James has moved on, it has taken longer for some

Cleveland fans, who can’t forgive him for abandoning his home

without winning a championship.

Before Wednesday’s game, Gilbert went on his Twitter account and

posted a message to say he’s no longer looking back.

”Cleveland Cavaliers young talent makes our future very

bright,” Gilbert wrote. ”Clearly, LeBron’s is as well. Time for

everyone to focus on the road ahead.”

This game had a little of everything with a carbon dioxide

container dripping onto the court and pushing the opening tip back

35 minutes, and a young fan running onto the floor in the fourth

quarter wearing a T-shirt that said: ”We Miss You, 2014 Come

Back,” a reference to James’ possible free agency and return to

Cleveland.

James went out of his way and patted the fan on the head as

security rushed him off the floor.

”He said he missed me and come back, please,” James said. ”I

wasn’t worried. There are metal detectors here, so we were OK. I

embraced it.”

NOTES: Starting with the Cavs, Miami’s next 10 games are against

opponents with a combined winning percentage of just .399. … The

Heat play the Pistons and Charlotte at home before going to

Orlando, Chicago, New Orleans and San Antonio. … It was the first

time Miami overcame a 21-point halftime deficit to win. … The

Cavs will wait a week before they evaluate Waiters, who has loose

cartilage, and decide whether he needs surgery. Cleveland coach

Byron Scott hopes his young guard comes back in the final month.

”If he gets back, I’ll be thrilled to death,” Scott said. …

Miami’s three wins over Cleveland this season have been by a total

of nine points.