PHILADELPHIA — LeBron James missed once, then again, whiffing on two easy looks at the rim that could have left Miami shaken.
Like a good teammate, Dwyane Wade swooped in for the saving tip, preserving the lead and keeping the Heat’s amazing win streak rolling.
James scored 27 points and the Heat became the fourth team to win at least 20 consecutive games in a season, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 98-94 on Wednesday night.
Against a struggling Sixers team that was revved up like a playoff game, the Heat just found a way to win.
And when it was done, they took the time to admire their mark.
“Twenty is special," Wade said. “Win 20 games in a row, it’s awesome. You can’t get around it. We’re going to try to go for the next one."
Wade scored 21 as the Heat needed big baskets over the final 2 minutes to top the Sixers for the milestone win. He stuck with the ball on James’ misses and scored the clutch tip that made it a three-point lead with 29 seconds left and squashed the Sixers’ upset bid.
“It shows you he, like many of our guys, are just willing to make winning plays at the end," coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Only three teams have won at least 20 consecutive games in the same season: the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33), the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22) and the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20). The Washington Capitols also won 20 straight, spanning the end of the 1947-48 season and the start of the 1948-49 campaign.
James and the Heat have started to acknowledge just how special this winning streak is in a season that has them running away with the Eastern Conference.
They opened a five-game road trip as 8½-point favorites over the slumping Sixers, a team they’ve defeated three times during the streak. They beat Atlanta on Tuesday for streak win No. 19, then made the flight to Philadelphia that put them in just before dawn.
“You get sleep when you can and do your job," center Chris Bosh said.
Maybe fatigue played a bit of a role in Miami’s inability to truly put away the Sixers. Led by Thaddeus Young, the Sixers opened the third quarter on a 16-8 run that helped slice the lead to four. Miami led 71-66 at the end of the quarter.
Also on Wednesday:
Hawks 96, Lakers 92: ATLANTA — Devin Harris scored 17 points and short-handed Atlanta shook off a 20-point third quarter by Kobe Bryant to snap a three-game losing streak. Bryant drove the baseline with a chance to force overtime but watched his jumper slide off the rim with three seconds remaining. Making matters worse, he landed on Dahntay Jones’ foot and twisted his left ankle, leaving him sidelined indefinitely.
Nuggets 117, Knicks 94: DENVER — Carmelo Anthony’s return to the Pepsi Center was a flop as Wilson Chandler scored 24 points and Denver blew out ailing New York. Anthony left a couple of minutes into the second half when his balky right knee, which he acknowledged Tuesday isn’t getting better, acted up. He scored just nine points.
Grizzlies 96, Clippers 85: LOS ANGELES — Marc Gasol scored 21 points, Tayshaun Prince added 18 and surging Memphis got its 14th victory in 15 games.
Kings 121, Bulls 79: SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Tyreke Evans had 26 points and seven assists in Sacramento’s most lopsided victory of the season.
Warriors 105, Pistons 97: OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry had 31 points and eight assists, David Lee added 20 points and 15 rebounds and Golden State grinded out a victory over struggling Detroit.
Celtics 112, Raptors 88: BOSTON — Kevin Garnett scored 12 points, passing Jerry West for 15th on the NBA’s career scoring list, and Paul Pierce joined him among the top 20 scorers in league history with 15 points to lead Boston.
Pacers 107, Timberwolves 91: INDIANAPOLIS — Roy Hibbert had a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead Indiana.
Wizards 106, Bucks 93: WASHINGTON — John Wall had 23 points and 10 assists to lead Washington past Milwaukee.
Rockets 111, Suns 81: HOUSTON — Donatas Motiejunas scored a career-high 19 points to lead five Houston starters in double figures.
Thunder 110, Jazz 87: OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant scored 23 points, Russell Westbrook added 19 and Oklahoma City cruised past Utah.