BOSTON — Two streaks are over. And therefore, the one that matters most endures.
Entering having lost their last 10 regular-season visits to Boston, the Miami Heat extended their winning streak to 23 on Monday night with a 105-103 victory over the Celtics at TD Garden. The loss also snapped the Celtics’ 11-game home winning streak.
The Heat now not only are in sole possession of the second-longest winning streak in league history, but more than two-thirds toward the league’s record streak of 33, set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
It wasn’t easy and it took arguably the Heat’s best effort of the streak, battling back from a 17-point deficit and overcoming a career-high 43-point performance from Celtics forward Jeff Green.
But with LeBron James scoring 37 points and adding 12 assists, and with teammates Mario Chalmers adding 21 points, Dwyane Wade 16 and Chris Bosh 13, the Heat found a way.
The winning play was a James 21-foot jumper over Green with 10.5 seconds to play that put the Heat up two.
It wasn’t expected to be this difficult, not with Celtics center Kevin Garnett missing the game with thigh and flu issues.
But up stepped Green, eclipsing a 40-point effort by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant as the highest-scoring game against the Heat this season.
And, so, for the first time, the Heat’s Big Three have, as a group, tasted regular-season success at TD Garden.
In this case the opponent was particularly meaningful. Five years ago to the date, the Houston Rockets’ 22-game winning streak, the one the Heat had tied a day earlier against the Toronto Raptors, ended against the Celtics.
This streak? It’s showing no signs of ending, with the Heat’s next four against the Eastern Conference’s worst teams: at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, home against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, home to the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday night and then next Monday at the Orlando Magic. Each of those teams is at least 20 games under .500.
Monday’s challenge was against a potential first-round playoff opponent, but one that also was shorthanded, with point guard Rajon Rondo out for the season with a knee injury and Garnett missing.
Beyond Green, there wasn’t much for the Celtics, who got 17 points from forward Paul Pierce.
Down 96-83 early in the fourth quarter, the Heat strung together a 9-0 run to close within 96-92, only to have Celtics guard Courtney Lee come back on the other end with a 3-pointer for a 99-92 Boston lead.
But with a Wade dunk, the Heat closed within 100-98, with Chalmers following up with a 3-pointer for a 101-100 Heat lead.
But that’s when Celtics guard Avery Bradley stepped up with a corner 3-pointer for a 103-101 Celtics lead with 1:49 to play. James followed with a putback of his own miss to tie it 103-103 with 67 seconds to play.
After a Green missed layup, the Heat were forced into a 24-second violation, with the ball ending up in Wade’s hands, giving the Celtics possession with 45 seconds to play.
Celtics forward Brandon Bass then was off with a layup, with James draining a 21-foot jumper over Green with 10.5 seconds left for a 105-103 Heat lead.
Green then drove on Heat forward Shane Battier, who blocked the ball out of bounds with 7 seconds left, leading to a video review, with the Celtics maintaining possession.
Off the ensuing inbounds play, the Celtics got wayward 3-pointer that was off, corralled by Wade.
With the victory, the Heat improved to 12-1 on the second night of back-to-back sets. They are now 16-0 since the All-Star break, matching the best post-break run ever, a by the 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run to move to a 61-59 lead and appeared to regain control.
But a 3-point play by Green later pushed the Celtics to a 73-85 lead midway through the third period, with Heat power forward Udonis Haslem called for his fourth foul on the play.
The Heat later drew within 73-72 on a Chalmers 3-pointer, only to see Green complete a 3-point play moments later for a 76-72 Celtics lead, at that stage eclipsing his previous season high of 31 points.
Green added a 3-pointer later in the quarter, going into the fourth with a career-high 38 points and Boston up 82-78 heading into the final 12 minutes.
Down 17 early in the second period, the Heat closed within 59-53 at halftime, despite a strong half by Green.
Green scored 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting over the first two periods.
It was the first 20-point first half of Green’s career. The previous highest-scoring first half this season against the Heat had been 24 by Carmelo Anthony, in a New York Knicks loss.
The highlight of the first half for the Heat was a James dunk off an alley-oop pass over Celtics guard Jason Terry, with the dunk so ferocious that James took time to stare down Terry, a longtime Heat nemesis. The glare grew a technical foul on James.
The Heat made their push in the second period with a late 8-0 run capped by as 3-pointer from Battier.
With Green scoring 14 consecutive points at one stretch, the Celtics closed the first quarter on a 17-0 run to take a 31-19 lead into the second period.
The Heat were forced to alter their approach when Wade was called for his second foul with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
Green closed the first quarter with those 14 points, on 5-of-7 shooting. James led the Heat with seven first-quarter points, with the Heat just 8 of 22 over the first 12 minutes, with Wade and Bosh limited to two points apiece in the opening quarter.
The Heat missed their final six shots of the first quarter, with four turnovers in the final 4:39 of the period.
James entered averaging 30.3 points in 32 previous regular-season games against the Celtics, his second-highest average against any team to his 30.5 points in 19 games against the Jazz.
By contrast, Wade entered averaging 21.3 points on .433 shooting over his career in the regular season against the Celtics, his lowest averages against any opponent.
It was just the sixth time in NBA history one team entered having won at least 15 in a row overall against a team that had won 10 or more in a row at home. Boston entered on an 11-game home winning streak that began with its 100-98 double-overtime victory over the Heat on Jan. 27.
©2013 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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