U.S. Sports Desk, Mar 21 (EFE).- The Miami Heat's long winning streak was in serious jeopardy against the lowly and short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers, but LeBron James led a furious comeback for a 98-95 win that extended the team's string of victories to 24 games.
James, who was last season's NBA Most Valuable Player and is considered a near-lock to retain that title in 2013, notched a triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in Wednesday night's game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, and he played the key role in leading the Heat back from 27 points down early in the third quarter.
In a second half characterized by wild momentum swings, the Heat went on a 55-19 run to turn a 67-40 deficit with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter into a 95-86 lead with 3:02 remaining in the contest.
The Cavs then rallied to cut the lead to 96-95, but James made two free throws in the waning seconds before Cleveland's C.J. Miles misfired on a last-gasp 3-pointer as time expired.
The biggest comeback this NBA season kept alive the Heat's bid to equal or surpass the NBA's all-time regular-season winning streak of 33 games, a record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
It was also a sweet victory personally for James, who spent seven seasons with the Cavaliers and went from hero to No. 1 villain in Cleveland overnight with his "Decision" to team up with fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami prior to the 2010-2011 season.
Cavaliers fans vented their anger at James the first time he returned to Quicken Loans Arena as a member of the Heat in December 2010, but they were more subdued on Wednesday night.
One fan wearing a T-shirt that read "We Miss You, 2014 Come Back," referring to the year James may become a free agent once again, even ran onto the court in the fourth quarter and was acknowledged by the star player before security staff led him off the floor.
The Heat's victory came two nights after they rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit in Boston to edge the Celtics 105-103.
Mario Chalmers added 17 points for the Heat, while Wade, Bosh and Shane Battier scored 11 points each.
The Cavs, meanwhile, got a moral victory of sorts by playing the Heat close despite the absence of their top three scorers: All Star Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao.
Wayne Ellington led six Cavaliers players in double figures with 20 points.
The Heat's record improved to 53-14, tops in the NBA, while the Cavaliers fell to 22-46.
In other NBA action Wednesday night, the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Toronto Raptors 107-101, the New York Knicks topped the Orlando Magic 106-94, the Atlanta Hawks held off the Milwaukee Bucks 98-90, the Memphis Grizzlies edged the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-89 in overtime, and the Houston Rockets cruised past the Utah Jazz 100-93.
The New Orleans Hornets squeaked out an 87-86 win over the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets pulled away late to beat the Dallas Mavericks 113-96, the San Antonio Spurs downed the Golden State Warriors 104-93, the Washington Wizards topped the Phoenix Suns 88-79, and the Los Angeles Clippers trounced the Philadelphia 76ers 101-72.