LeBron James banked in a runner as he drew a foul, then joined the crowd’s roar and threw a fist.
A knockout punch? Pretty much. The basket came during a second-half spurt that turned a close game into another romp for the Miami Heat. They trailed early and waited until the end of the third quarter to make their move, winning by double figures for the ninth game in a row by beating New Orleans, 96-84, last night in Miami.
Dwyane Wade scored 32 points, topping 30 for the third consecutive game, and Chris Bosh added 23 points and 11 rebounds. The Heat blew open the game with an 18-2 spurt that put them up, 94-77.
“This was for us one of the most gratifying wins, because it was a grind-out game,’’ Wade said. “We were able to stick to it until our time finally came.’’
Wade had an especially efficient night: 8 for 13 from the field and 14 of 17 from the free throw line. James had 20 points and seven assists for Miami, back home after a four-game road sweep.
“They do the same thing every night,’’ Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “Nobody can stop them.’’
While the Heat roll, New Orleans continues to struggle. With a loss for the second day in a row, the Hornets fell to 3-9 since an 11-1 start. They haven’t scored 100 points since Nov. 19, a stretch of 13 games.
“We need to get a win so we could see how it feels,’’ said Chris Paul, who managed only 11 points. David West had 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who went 1 for 13 from 3-point range.
The teams split the season series. New Orleans beat the Heat, 96-93, Nov. 5.
Miami is the sixth team in NBA history to win nine straight games by at least 10 points. And James has had a hand in two of those runs — Cleveland was the last team to do it, between Nov. 22 and Dec. 9, 2008.
The 2007-08 Boston Celtics also won nine straight by double figures.
Bucks 103, Mavericks 99 — Brandon Jennings had 23 points and 10 assists, and Milwaukee rallied from a 20-point second-quarter deficit to win in Dallas and snap the Mavericks’ 12-game winning streak. Dirk Nowitzki scored 30 points for the Mavericks, who hadn’t lost since Nov. 19 to Chicago.
Bulls 92, Pacers 73 — Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 18 rebounds to power host Chicago to its sixth straight victory. Derrick Rose added 17 points and 12 assists for the Bulls and he ignited a 10-0 run after returning from a rest midway through the fourth quarter that broke open a close game. It’s Chicago’s first six-game winning streak since Nov. 25-Dec. 8, 2006.
Jazz 108, Warriors 95 — Deron Williams scored 30 points and reserve C.J. Miles had 20 points and six rebounds to help host Utah hand Golden State its 12th loss in 13 games.
Grizzlies 86, Trail Blazers 73 — Zach Randolph had 25 points and 20 rebounds to lead Memphis to its third straight victory. The victory snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Trail Blazers in Memphis. Brandon Roy, who entered the game as Portland’s leading scorer, was ineffective on a bum left knee he tweaked in Sunday’s loss at San Antonio. Roy was 3 of 16 from the field and scored 7 points.