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Unrelenting Heat notch another win in pay-back tour

Miami Heat center Chris Bosh reacts after scoring against New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) and guard J.R. Smith (R) in the fourth q
Miami Heat center Chris Bosh reacts after scoring against New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) and guard J.R. Smith (R) in the fourth q

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The unrelenting Miami Heat notched another win on their pay-back tour in a Sunday matinee, dashing the hopes of the New York Knicks while raising the question of whether any team can deny Miami another NBA title.

The Heat, led as usual by the spectacular LeBron James, erased a 15-point deficit at intermission by imposing their will down the stretch for a 99-93 victory in Madison Square Garden that extended their winning streak to a franchise record-tying 14 in a row.

Reigning champions Miami ended New York's modest three-game win streak and avenged a pair of 20-point losses to the Atlantic Division leaders early this season.

Dwyane Wade said revenge was not only sweet, but important as the Heat sent a message to the Knicks after getting even with another quality team, the Memphis Grizzlies, on Friday.

"When you're on a winning streak you've got to find many different ways to win ball games," said Wade, who scored 20 points, handed out eight assists and pulled down eight rebounds.

"We've had comebacks in the last second, we've had double overtime games, but this is probably the most thrilling one, the most challenging against a team that beat us twice handily.

"For us to come back and find a way, it was great."

Wade said the Heat figured the Knicks must have felt they had Miami's number after storming to a 59-45 lead at the half.

"In the first half, in their mindset they've got the answer key to the Miami Heat, and we have to fight and understand this team is trying to kick our butt and show the world that they can kick our butt. So we had to fight back.

"It's a good win for our psyche."

The Heat have another game circled on their calendar, a date next week against the Indiana Pacers, who also have gone 2-0 against Miami this season.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson blamed the Knicks' fade on turnovers, saying you can ward off the Heat for only so long.

"You are not going to slow those guys down," said Woodson, whose team slipped to 35-21 as James blocked shots, made steals and sank three-pointers down the stretch to secure the win. "He has been playing that way for the last four or five years."

James has been doing a lot of winning lately, adding a second Olympic gold in London to his first NBA crown, but this was the first 14-game winning streak of his career.

"I measure my success by wins, so this has been the most successful so far for me," said James, who scored 29 points and hauled down 11 rebounds.

The most nervous that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra experienced came in the third quarter, when James crashed to the floor after a collision in trying to convert an alley-oop pass from Wade into a basket. He grimaced as he flexed his left knee before gingerly testing it and deciding he could continue.

An injury to James, Wade or big man Chris Bosh might be the only thing that could derail Miami's campaign to reach a third successive NBA Finals in search of back-to-back titles.

Spoelstra said he held his breath when James hit the deck.

"Always, not only with LeBron but Dwyane," Spoelstra said. "They are aggressive, attacking players. They are not super-human, but they catapult themselves at the rim without fear or regard for their physical health.

"As a coach, yeah, I'm always walking on egg shells. But those guys don't. They're fearless."

Wade said seeing James sprawled on the floor was tense.

"Him holding that knee, I know he fell ugly," said Wade. "The only thing you can hope for is that he gets back up and walks away."

James did, and the Heat walked away with their 14th in a row to extend their Eastern Conference-best record to 43-14.

(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Gene Cherry)

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