In the days leading up to the Miami Heat’s third matchup of the season with their Southeast Division rivals, LeBron James stressed that even at barely the midpoint of the season there was high importance for last night’s game in Orlando, Fla.
And James played like it, racking up 51 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists — including a 23-point first quarter — to lead Miami to a 104-100 victory.
It was a season high for James, whose scoring effort tied for the fifth-most points of his career. Dwyane Wade added 15 points and Chris Bosh 13. The victory was the Heat’s fourth straight. The Magic lost for the fourth time in their last six games.
“Just playing this team got me going,’’ said James, who hit his first 11 shots. “We understand that it wasn’t just any regular-season game. There were a lot of things said about us in the offseason that came from this organization. So we just wanted to come in here and play to our abilities and make a statement.’’
Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 22 points. Dwight Howard had 17 points and 16 rebounds, but only 1 point after halftime and was just 3 for 13 at the free throw line. Jason Richardson chipped in 16.
The Heat were expected to exploit a thin Magic front line that was missing injured starting forward Brandon Bass. Instead, led by James, the Heat did their damage from the outside. They led by as many as 23 points before a frantic rally by the Magic in the final six minutes almost washed it away.
Miami took a 16-point advantage into the final period and led, 90-69, before the Magic went on a 19-4 run.
Spurs 89, Lakers 88 — Antonio McDyess tipped in Tim Duncan’s missed jump shot right before the buzzer, and San Antonio survived a late rally to win in Los Angeles.
Tony Parker scored 21 points and Richard Jefferson added 18 in a meeting of the Western Conference’s top two teams.
San Antonio nursed a small lead through most of the second half until Lamar Odom’s 3-pointer with one minute to play and Pau Gasol’s two free throws with 22.7 seconds left put the Lakers ahead, 88-87.
Manu Ginobili missed an open 3-pointer and Tony Parker missed a floater in the lane on the Spurs’ final possession, but San Antonio got both rebounds. Duncan’s shot after an inbounds play then bounced high off the back rim, but McDyess slipped inside to tip it home.
Warriors 100, Bucks 94 — Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry combined for 15 points in the final 4:38 and Golden State rallied to beat Milwaukee in Oakland, Calif.
Ellis hit a jumper with 17.3 seconds left to put the Warriors up by 4. He scored 24 points to lead Golden State, which won its second straight after a four-game losing streak.