Kings-Heat Preview

LeBron James and the Miami Heat have proven unbeatable since the
first of the month.

A visit from the sputtering Sacramento Kings isn’t likely to
slow them down.

Looking to extend the NBA’s longest active winning streak, Miami
tries to continue its recent dominance of a Kings team on the verge
of its longest losing streak of the season.

Since falling 102-89 at Indiana on Feb. 1, Eastern
Conference-leading Miami (40-14) has outscored opponents by an
average of 12.9 points during a season-high 11-game winning streak.
The Heat, shooting a league-best 49.5 percent, have posted an even
more impressive 52.1 mark during their run.

Miami has gone an NBA-leading 31-6 over the last three Februarys
since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in South Beach
in 2010-11.

“This is when we make our mark, become legends or whatever the
case may be,” said James, who earned his 42nd player of the week
award Monday – the most in NBA history. “This is the best time of
the year. We understand that spring is on its way and we’re gearing
up for it. We’re playing some really, really good ball right now as
a team.”

James has played a huge role during Miami’s run, posting 28.9
points per game on a remarkable 65.5 percent from the floor. The
three-time league MVP has shot at least 52.6 percent in 13 straight
games.

“I understand what this time is all about. I understand going
through February, March and then April, what the games bring,” he
said.

“I can’t sit here and say that a February game is the same as an
October game. … It’s good to be in a situation where we can play
ball at the right time.”

The Heat survived a close call Sunday in a 109-105 win over
Cleveland. After going up by as many as 22 points early in the
third quarter, Miami was forced to rally from eight points down
with under five minutes to play.

“We’re a veteran ballclub and we’ve been in every situation that
an NBA game can offer us,” said James, who had 28 points and eight
assists against his former team. “We don’t get too high, we don’t
get too low, we just play the 48 minutes out and see where it takes
us.”

Wade also came up big with 24 points, including 11 over the
final 4:50.

“We found a way,” said Wade. “In the fourth, you just find it.
… We just turned that other switch on.”

The Heat haven’t had much difficulty getting things going
against the Kings (19-38), who have dropped 16 of 17 in the series,
including the last eight by an average of 19.5 points.

Miami cruised to a 128-99 win at Sacramento on Jan. 12, behind a
franchise record-tying 10 3-pointers and career-high 34 points from
Mario Chalmers. Kings guard Isaiah Thomas also had a career-high 34
points that night.

Sacramento is coming off its fifth straight loss and 13th in 16
games, 110-95 at New Orleans on Sunday. The Kings shot a
season-high 63.2 percent from long distance (12 for 19) but made
just 23 of 64 (35.9 percent) from inside the arc.

“We missed so many layups and opportunities to score at the rim,
that’s going to hurt you,” said coach Keith Smart, whose team has
been outscored by an average of 16.5 points during a season-high
eight-game road skid. “When you get opportunities to get into the
paint, you have to finish.”

John Salmons was one of six Kings to score in double figures
Sunday, recording 18 points on a career-high six 3s in seven
attempts. He missed his other seven shots, though. Thomas added 16
and is averaging 19.5 over the last eight games.

The Kings have dropped five straight three times this season but
haven’t lost six in a row since a seven-game slide April 3-13.