BOSTON — Walking the fine line between victory and defeat — that's bound to happen during a lengthy winning streak — the Miami Heat survived.
They survived a career-high 43 points from Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green. They survived 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Paul Pierce. They survived a riled-up home crowd, anxious to see the Celtics end the Heat's winning streak.
The Heat kept their winning streak intact, extending it to 23 games with a 105-103 victory against the Celtics Monday.
BOX SCORE: Heat 105, Celtics 103
POWER RANKINGS: Can Heat hold at No. 1?
"It means a lot to what we're trying to build — a tough-minded team on the road. It's a hostile environment," Heat All-Star forward LeBron James said. "We grew again tonight, and that's big for our team."
It is the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, behind the 33 wins a row by the 1971-72 Lakers and surpassing the 2007-08 Rockets who won 22 consecutive games. Incidentally, the Celtics ended Houston's winning streak five years ago March 18.
The Heat escaped after trailing by 17 points — their largest deficit during the streak — with great play from James, who had 37 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and strong contributions from the cast.
It is the first time the Heat have a won a regular-season game in Boston since April 2007, and Miami also ended Boston's 11-game home winning streak.
"We had to earn that one, no about question about it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We didn't panic, but we did own it. ... You've got to stay the course. It's a 48-minute game, and you keep grinding away."
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Guard Mario Chalmers had 21 points, and guard Dwyane Wade had 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Center Chris Bosh had 13 points and five rebounds.
"Other guys don't get enough credit, and they deserve it," Wade said. "When they're not shooting the ball well and when they're struggling, a lot of people like to point that out. But when they're playing well, that's the reason we're on this winning streak. ... So even though LeBron had an unbelievable night, we don't win without our bench."
In fact, five Miami players had at least five rebounds, and the Heat outrebounded Boston 39-33.
PHOTOS: MIAMI'S STREAK, GAME-BY-GAME
After Avery Bradley's three-pointer with 1:49 left put Boston ahead 103-101, James tied the score at 103 with 1:23 left. James' basket with 10.5 seconds left gave Miami a 105-103 lead and the win.
Reserve forward Shane Battier had a stellar defensive play, blocking Green's shot with eight seconds left in the game.
"Shane Battier made a hell of a play," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
The Heat needed multiple comebacks to salvage the streak. Miami trailed 41-24 in the second quarter and took a 61-59 third-quarter lead. Miami was down 96-83 early in the fourth quarter, and and it trailed 99-92 with 5:14 left. But the Heat controlled Boston down the stretch, as the Celtics played without injured forward-center Kevin Garnett (flu-like symptoms).
Rivers had a unique assessment of the game. "I was really looking forward to the game because I didn't know how our guys were going to react," he said. "Overall, besides not winning the game, we passed the test. But losing the game is what you'll remember."
It was an intense, physical and heated game, befitting of the Eastern Conference's best rivalry. The teams have played in the playoffs the past two seasons, including an entertaining and exhausting seven-game series in last season's conference finals.
James threw down a vicious dunk on an alley-oop pass from guard Norris Cole right in Boston guard Jason Terry's mug, similar to Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan's recent dunk on Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight. James received a technical foul for taunting.
It was testy most of the night. No easy buckets, especially in the paint near the basket. It was playoff basketball in March.
Green almost singlehandedly carried Boston to an improbable victory.
"Jeff was terrific," Rivers said. "He played well the entire night. He attacked. You know what I loved about Jeff. I thought the first two, three minutes of the game, he was struggling. He missed a free throw (and) missed a couple of shots. And you know the old Jeff may have gone away. ... And once he realized he had an advantage, he took advantage. And that was great."
Despite Green's barrage of points, including 15 on three-pointers, it was not enough.
In the fourth quarter, Miami outscored Boston 27-21, including 13-4 in the final five minutes. James had 13 points and three assists in the fourth.
"It's just LeBron being LeBron," Battier said. "I don't 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 who takes No. 6 for granted because he's a special talent. Aside from his physical skills, he plays the right way. He's an unbelievable teammate. He plays to win. He's unselfish and that's what makes him special."
What James and guard Wade are doing on this winning streak have them on pace to join Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only teammates to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season in the past 21 seasons.
James, front-runner for MVP honors, entered Monday averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and Wade, an MVP candidate if not for James' fantastic season, was averaging 21.8 points, five assists and five rebounds. Both were shooting better than 52% from the field.
They were great and had help.
"It was a fantastic game," Rivers said. "I just don't like losing."