POSTED: Mar 20, 2013 11:25 PM ET
CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 25 points as the Miami Heat overcame a 27-point deficit to win their 24th straight game, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 98-95 on Wednesday and extending the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
Miami is within nine games of matching the record of 33 consecutive wins held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
James and his teammates have insisted the record isn't one of their goals, and for more than 30 minutes the defending champions seemed disinterested and on the verge of losing for the first time since Feb. 1. Miami trailed 67-40 with 7:44 left in the third quarter.
But behind the irrepressible James, who added 12 rebounds and 10 assists, the Heat inched closer to history by matching the biggest comeback in the NBA this season.
James had 14 points in the fourth as Miami completed its second straight comeback. The Heat rallied from 17 down - 13 in the fourth quarter - to beat Boston 105-103 Monday night to move one ahead of the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22) for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
Although the Cavs were missing All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao - their top three scorers - they pushed Miami to the limit.
It wasn't until James, playing his fourth game back in Cleveland since leaving as a free agent in 2010, made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left that Miami could relax a little. The Cavs had one last chance to level it, but C.J. Miles was long with a 3-pointer in the final second, letting Miami off the hook.
Following the game, James stopped to sign a few autographs as he made his way to Miami's locker room. This was much tougher than he and the Heat could have imagined.
Mario Chalmers added 17 points and Dwyane Wade had 11 for the Heat, who outscored the Cavs 30-18 in the fourth quarter and 64-40 in the second half.
Wayne Ellington had 20 points and Tristan Thompson 18 for Cleveland, which went from tbe verge of a stunning upset to blowing the biggest lead in a loss in the club's history.
Down by nine to open the fourth, the Heat were up 95-86 with 3:02 left and seemed to have the Cavaliers on the ropes.
But Cleveland bounced back and closed to 96-95 on Thompson's two free throws with 44 seconds to go. Wade then missed a jumper, but Ellington misfired on a step-back 23-footer with 5.2 seconds to go.
James was fouled and the reigning MVP, with a sellout crowd of 20,562 roaring, stepped to the line and dropped both free throws to make it 98-95.
Miles was contested on his final shot, and once it clanked off the rim, the Heat prepared to head for home with a chance to extend their streak to 25 on Friday against Detroit.
The start of the game was delayed 35 minutes because of a spill on the floor caused by condensation from a carbon dioxide container inside the scoreboard.
James was standing at midcourt awaiting the opening tip when arena workers first noticed a pool of liquid on the floor. As ball boys tried to mop it up, the officials sent both teams to their locker rooms and the giant scoreboard was lowered to the floor so the problem could be fixed.
The team returned and warmed up for five minutes before the game got under way.