In a South Beach showdown of the league's hottest teams, it seems only one is grabbing all the headlines. That may start to change if the Memphis Grizzlies pull off a season sweep of the Miami Heat.
Each team pulled off a memorable victory in its last game but surely would consider one Friday night to be much more significant. The Grizzlies are looking to record the longest winning streak in franchise history and prevent the Heat from notching the second longest in theirs.
A run of 12 consecutive victories along with LeBron James' dazzling play has largely made Miami the focal point of the NBA. This win streak is the team's best since James' first season with the Heat in 2010-11, and the only one that lasted longer was a 14-game run in 2004-05.
"We're coming together," said James, averaging 29.8 points and shooting 65.0 percent during this win streak. "We're doing it the right way. We're executing offensively. We're sharing the ball."
He certainly shared a lot Tuesday, recording a career-high 16 assists to go with his season-best 40 points in a 141-129 double-overtime victory over Sacramento. Dwyane Wade scored a season-high 39 for the Heat (41-14), who trailed in the fourth quarter against a sub-.500 team for the second straight game.
"We're not getting rattled," James said. "We've been in some crazy games. We just stay the course and figure out a way to get the victory."
That certainly was the case for the Grizzlies (38-18) on Wednesday. They matched the biggest comeback in franchise history by rallying from a 25-point deficit in the second quarter to beat Dallas 90-84.
Memphis equaled another team record with an eighth consecutive victory, previously achieved in November of this season and January 2004.
"We didn't want to go out tonight and get blown out, especially going into Miami, which is a team that is rolling right now," forward Austin Daye said. "This win gives us a lot of confidence going into Miami and we are looking forward to going down there."
The Grizzlies have even more reason to be confident as one of four teams to beat the Heat by more than 10 points this season. Memphis is the only one to hold them below 40 percent from the field, winning 104-86 on Nov. 11 as Wade had eight points on 3-of-15 shooting.
In fact, few teams have had done as well against the Heat in recent years. The Grizzlies have won seven of the past 10 meetings and three of four since James joined Miami.
One reason for that success is Memphis having a more formidable frontcourt. Zach Randolph has posted five consecutive double-doubles and has four in the last five matchups with Miami. Center Marc Gasol has averaged 18.0 points and 10.7 rebounds over his last three games.
However, the Grizzlies won't have Rudy Gay this time after trading their top scorer to Toronto, and their only loss in the past four meetings came when he was sidelined by injury.
Newcomer Tayshaun Prince has replaced him in the starting lineup and is scoring 8.9 per game in a Memphis uniform, about half what Gay was averaging.
"We aren't that talented," coach Lionel Hollins said. "We have to be prepared. We have to be mentally and physically ready to play."
The Grizzlies always seem ready on defense, allowing a Western Conference-low 89.5 points per game - 80.0 over the last four.
Miami averages an East-leading 103.9 points, including 111.2 in its last 10.
Ray Allen is 12 for 19 on 3-pointers over the last three games. Fellow aging sharpshooter Shane Battier, 28 of 47 from beyond the arc in his last nine, could return after sitting out Tuesday with hamstring tightness.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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