There seems to be no slowing down the freight train that is LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, who won their 25th in a row Friday night following a 103-89 rout of Detroit.
ATLANTA -- The Portland Trail Blazers, fighting for their playoff lives, rode the three-point shot late to beat the Atlanta Hawks 104-93 Friday night at Philips Arena.
Wesley Matthews led the Blazers with 28 points, including 10 points in the second quarter while cashing in on 5-of-8 3-pointers.
The Blazers (33-36), coming off a big win over the Chicago Bulls Thursday night, jumped out to a quick lead, scoring their first eight points in the paint - four from LaMarcus Aldridge and four from J.J. Hickson.
Aldridge racked up 15 points and six rebounds by halftime, and went on to finish with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Hickson, though, was tagged for a third foul at 10:04 in the second quarter, forcing him to take a seat. He finished with 15 points.
Damian Lillard got hot late in the third quarter, making two of the Blazers’ six 3-pointers in the period, finishing with 22 points.
Josh Smith scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Al Horford had seven of his 17 rebounds in the first quarter - 10 in the first half - and scored nine of his 15 points in the first as well. It was his sixth consecutive double-double game, the 10th in his last 11 games.
The Hawks (38-31), fighting for home court in the playoffs, got off to a slow start, lulled into letting the Blazers dictate the tempo. Jeff Teague, who had 21 points and seven assists, scored the Hawks’ first five points and seven of their first nine before the team rallied to take a 24-21 lead after the first quarter.
The Hawks were determined to play more aggressively in the second half and they did, racing out to an 11-point lead at 5:26 in the third quarter. But the Blazers, who made only one of seven 3-point shots in the first half, hit nine in the second half.
NOTES: Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was the Hawks’ coach from 2003-04, so he was not the least bit surprised that the Blazers’ team bus was stuck in traffic for 55 minutes on the way to the game. When it neared Philips Arena, it was delayed by trains. “I almost stopped at Friedman’s to get a pair of shoes,” quipped Stotts, referencing the store down the street that all visiting players hit when they’re in Atlanta because of its deep selection of sizes. … All of the Blazers’ remaining games are against teams in the playoff hunt. … Hawks coach Larry Drew adjusted his lineup once again, going with the five starters who secured the 95-87 win over the Blazers on Nov. 12 - Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson, Josh Smith and Al Horford. Drew has used 24 different starting lineups; this one had a 5-7 record going into the game. … The beginning of the game was delayed five minutes because of malfunctioning shot clocks.
Heat win streak stretches to 25
MIAMI - LeBron James is not about to argue.
His Miami Heat team is 25 games into the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, and the fact that they have fallen behind by double digits in three straight games does not seem to bother the superstar forward.
“I’d rather finish strong,” James said, “than start fast and finish weak.”
James did the former Friday night, putting up 29 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the Heat’s 103-89 victory over the Detroit Pistons at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami is closing in on the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA record win streak of 33 in a row. Miami’s 25 wins have come in a span of 48 days.
The biggest obstacle to the Heat breaking the Lakers’ record appears to be a March 31 date at San Antonio. Before that, a trip to Chicago could be tough. An April 2 date with their rivals, the New York Knicks, is another potential roadblock.
The Heat play a stretch that includes, in order, Charlotte, at Orlando, at Chicago, at New Orleans, at San Antonio, the Knicks and at Charlotte. If the Heat clear all those hurdles, they could tie the record with a home win over Philadelphia April 6 and break the mark with a home game against Milwaukee (April 9).
“It’s crazy,” James said of Miami’s streak.
The Pistons, meanwhile, have lost 10 games in a row, the longest active losing streak in the league. Detroit was led by Greg Monroe, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds.
Detroit led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but that was nothing to a Heat team that this week rallied from 17 down to beat Boston and from 27 down to subdue Cleveland.
The Heat trailed Detroit 54-51 at halftime but surged ahead by outscoring the Pistons 22-14 in the third quarter.
“We were a little bit flat in the first half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “In the second half, the urgency was much better.”
Spoelstra said the Heat’s recent slow starts are on his “radar.”
“We need to put together a complete game,” the coach said. “We haven’t had that energetic start we want. But this team, over the past couple of years, has shown that they can address things and improve.”
The Heat improved to 31-3 at home. That ties the Heat with the Denver Nuggets for the best home record in the league.
Miami is 32-2 this season when shooting at least 50 percent from the floor. The Heat also had their 20th consecutive game of at least 20 assists.
The Heat overcame a poor game by forward Chris Bosh and a couple of injury scares. Bosh scored five points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, although he had a team-high six turnovers. Wade also left the game for several minutes in the third quarter after hurting his wrist on a hard foul from Kyle Singler.
In the fourth quarter, an inadvertent elbow from Heat forward Chris Andersen struck teammate Ray Allen above his eye, drawing blood. Allen, though, returned to the game.
Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said he did not fault his team’s effort.
“But the (22) turnovers hurt us,” he said. “In the first half, we had crisp ball movement for the most part. I counted only four bad offensive possessions in the first half.”
Frank said the Heat - as expected - turned up the defensive intensity in the second half.
“We just have to clean up some execution things,” he said. “We just need to sustain it.”
Pistons point guard Jose Calderon, who had 18 points and seven assists but also seven turnovers, was also proud of his team’s effort.
“It’s not like they just beat us and no one else,” he said. “They beat 24 teams before us. A lot of people probably expected them to beat us by 40 or 50 points. But that wasn’t going to happen.”
NOTES: The Heat’s 25 wins during the win streak is as many or more victories than nine NBA teams have had all season. … The Pistons have already clinched their fifth straight losing season. … The Pistons are winless in March. During the skid, the Pistons have been outscored by 30 or more points three times. … Here is what Frank said two hours before the Heat game: “Let’s give them our best. Our tank has to be empty (at game’s end). It should be after every game, but especially when you are playing a team that is chasing history. Miami is playing at a very high level, but we have beaten them (most recently this season in Detroit, Dec. 28, 109-99). It’s not like we’re selling something that can’t be done.” … Up next, the Pistons play at Charlotte on Saturday before going home to face Minnesota on Tuesday. … The Heat play host to Charlotte on Sunday before going on a four-game road trip.