MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James ran a few steps behind the play, knowing exactly what was coming. The lob from Norris Cole arrived, and the NBA’s reigning MVP rose for a catch and dunk.
He made it look easy.
He’s making everything look easy right now.
James scored 32 points on 12-for-18 shooting in a record-setting show, Dwyane Wade scored 30 and the Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-97 on Sunday for their fifth straight win.
It was James’ fifth straight game with at least 30 points, a franchise record. He also joined Adrian Dantley (1979) and Moses Malone (1982) as the only NBA players to score at least 30 and shoot at least 60 percent in five straight outings, the team said.
”Don’t take it for granted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”He’s making greatness look easy.”
Mario Chalmers scored 13 and Chris Bosh finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat.
Kobe Bryant had 28 points and nine assists for the Lakers, who also got 18 points from Earl Clark. The Lakers had eight turnovers in the fourth quarter, while Miami had none.
”Turnovers,” lamented Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. ”You have to give them credit. They’re good.”
With the win, Miami moved 2 1/2 games clear of the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings. The Knicks lost to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier Sunday.
Dwight Howard and Steve Nash each scored 15 for the Lakers.
”They have a couple of sensational players over there that made some big plays,” Bryant said.
Indeed, James and Wade stole the show down the stretch.
Wade also shot 12 for 18 for Miami, which shot 55 percent as a team and held a 38-29 edge in rebounding. James scored 20 in the second half and Wade had 18 in the final two quarters, but the defending NBA champions weren’t able to pull away until the final minutes.
Wade had five straight points for Miami, the last of them coming with 7:15 left when his three-point play put the Heat up 89-82 – at that point, their biggest lead of the day.
A minute later, Wade started what might have been Miami’s signature sequence of the game.
He stepped in front of a pass by Bryant under the basket, then flipped it to Bosh before falling out of bounds. Bosh got the ball to Cole, who beat Nash down the court, then lobbed a pass over his head to James, who soared for a slam that gave the Heat a seven-point lead once again.
”You could feel the buzz in the arena today,” James said. ”We were just happy that we were able to play our game, weather some of their storms that they had and come out with a win.”
With 3:25 left, James turned in another highlight.
He stole a pass, drove down the court and Nash – who found himself in the lane against a fast-charging James plenty of times Sunday, all to no avail – simply had no chance.
It was almost as if Nash wasn’t even in James’ field of vision. He leaped for a dunk, giving him 30 points and the franchise record, and Miami’s lead was nine. Bryant scored on the next Lakers possession, but Shane Battier hit a 3-pointer with 2:42 left to put Miami up 100-90 for the first double-digit lead for either team all day.
That was the last gasp for the Lakers, who finished their road trip at 4-3.
”We had our chances, but we weren’t good enough tonight,” Nash said. ”We had too many breakdowns and we had opportunities to stretch the lead at times in the game and we couldn’t do that either so probably in the end we didn’t deserve it.”
The teams finished the first half tied at 53, and the third period didn’t allow either team much in the way of breathing room either, until the final seconds.
That’s when James started flexing some muscle.
James scored Miami’s last 11 points of the third, all in the final 4:20, and four of those came in the last six seconds. He was fouled by Clark and made the first free throw. Then the second attempt was tipped back out by Battier to James, who was just beyond the 3-point line. He connected from there, and the Heat took a 78-73 lead into the fourth.
It took a few more minutes, but eventually James and Wade helped Miami put it away.
”D-Wade came and he just started cooking in the fourth quarter,” Bryant said. ”He started doing what D-Wade does and made sensational play after sensational play.”
Rapper Lil Wayne – a semi-regular in the crowd at Heat games – was there for the first half, then tweeted that he was ejected for rooting for the Lakers. Security personnel were seen talking to the rapper at halftime, and a Heat spokesman said after the game that he chose to leave on his own and was not ejected.
NOTES: The Heat have now won six of their last seven games against the Lakers. … James made his first five shots, which left him at 42 for his last 52 attempts from the floor to that point, a ridiculous 81-percent clip. … Bryant had five assists in the first quarter, tying a season best. … Celebrities in attendance included Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga, pro golfer Justin Rose and Donald Trump. … LSU football coach Les Miles live-tweeted the game, noting that James is ”more athletic in person.”