BOSTON — A team doesn’t win NBA championships without having the perseverance to win some games it probably should have lost.
A team doesn’t win 23 games in a row without the above, either.
NBA champion Miami, down by 13 with eight minutes remaining, rode LeBron James to a dramatic 105-103 victory over the valiant Boston Celtics on Monday night, giving the Heat the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
Now only the 1971-72 Lakers and their 33-game streak are ahead of the Heat, who somehow managed to escape when it appeared the Celtics, playing without Kevin Garnett, were about to end the streak behind a career night by Jeff Green (43 points).
James, who tied the score with 1:23 left, scored 13 of his team’s final 22 points and hit a jumper with 10.5 seconds left to put the Heat ahead. Miami’s Shane Battier then blocked a drive by Green out of bounds with seven seconds left. Boston’s Paul Pierce then missed a fall-away 3-pointer from the right corner. Miami’s Dwyane Wade grabbed the rebound and the comeback was complete.
“It means a lot to what we’re trying to build,” James said. “A tough-minded team on the road, it’s a hostile environment. We grew again tonight and that’s big for our team.”
Talking about what James did down the stretch, Battier said, “It’s just LeBron being LeBron. I don’t really have any other words that you guys haven’t already used before. He’s the best.
“You never take that for granted. Shame on anybody that takes No. 6 for granted, because he’s a special talent.”
Exactly five years earlier, the Celtics ended Houston’s 22-game streak and they almost did the same thing to the Heat. But they scored just seven points in the final 8:26.
James, who has been on fire during this streak, finished with 37 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Mario Chalmers scored 21 points and Wade had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The win did away with Miami’s formality of clinching the Southeast Division.
Green, getting his second straight start, this time with Garnett sick, delivered the best offensive game of his career but didn’t score in the final 9:06.
“Jeff was terrific,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after TD Garden fans starting chanting Green’s name during the game.
“Yeah, I heard it,” Green said. “It’s a good feeling, but you just got to stay in the game. Think about the next play.”
Pierce had 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The loss ended Boston’s 11-game home winning streak and gave the Heat their first win in 11 regular-season games in Boston. Miami did win Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.
Green had 26 points and six rebounds in the first half when the Celtics opened a 17-point lead and didn’t stop there. He topped his previous career high of 37 points (Dec. 1, 2010 at Brooklyn, with Oklahoma City) with a 3-pointer with 46.4 seconds left in the third quarter. He was 14 of 21 from the floor and 5 of 7 from 3-point range, where Boston was 10 of 21.
The Celtics turned the ball over 21 times, which didn’t help.
“They’re the Miami Heat. They force turnovers and get easy buckets,” Pierce said. “If they get 25-26 points off our turnovers (they got 24), that’s devastating.”
Rivers wasn’t satisfied with the close loss, saying, “I believed we were going to win the game before the game. I thought we were going to win the game during the game. And I thought we should have won the game.”
The loss dropped the Celtics to 16-7 since losing Rajon Rondo for the season and allowed Ray Allen to escape with a win in his second game back. Lustily booed all night, Allen was limited to six points and was 0 of 3 from 3-point range in just over 30 minutes.
NOTES: Garnett sat out his third game of the season. He missed the morning shootaround, but official word didn’t come down until before game time that he wouldn’t play. The news he was sick and not hurt was a surprise. “He’s sick, really. It’s not the injury,” Rivers said. “He just has a terrible flu or whatever and, with the injury, we just felt the combination. It was too much to play.” Rivers said Garnett would have played had he not been sick. … The Celtics begin a three-game road trip in New Orleans on Wednesday night, and the Heat are at Cleveland. Garnett was expected on the Celtics’ team flight Tuesday. … Miami’s winning streak started Feb. 3 at Toronto and win No. 22 was also at Toronto this past Sunday. … James registered his 33rd double-double of the season, already a career high. He has 31 in three different seasons. … Allen helped put Toronto away with fourth-quarter 3-pointers Sunday, giving coach Erik Spoelstra a scary flashback. “Those 3s by Ray, that’s why we came up with the term for so many years when he was in Boston, ‘Oh, blank,’” Spoelstra said. “Those are what we feared for so many years because it can turn a game around just like that with three or four 4s in a row.”