James scored 30 points, Dwyane Wade added 21 points and seven assists, and the Heat rode the strength of a big third-quarter run to beat the Utah Jazz 105-89 on Saturday night.
James added nine rebounds and seven assists for the Eastern Conference-leading Heat, who won their fourth straight game. Their next game against Oklahoma City in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals. Shane Battier scored 15 and Ray Allen added 13 for Miami, which opened the second half on a 22-6 run to build a 69-49 lead.
”We look like a Miami Heat basketball team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Marvin Williams scored 16 for Utah, which got 15 from Gordon Hayward and 11 from Paul Millsap.
The Jazz played the second half without Mo Williams, who had X-rays on his thumb and was concerned after the game about the potential severity – saying it reminded him of a serious injury in 2008. He said he expects to have an MRI exam on Sunday.
Miami was without Chris Bosh, home with what the team said was a cold. Even without their biggest starter, the Heat managed to outrebound the Jazz 39-38.
James has scored at least 20 points in all 24 Heat games this season, matching the longest run of 20-or-more efforts to start a year since Karl Malone did it for Utah in the 1989-90 campaign.
Maybe it was fitting that James tied Malone’s mark in a game against the Jazz.
”Karl Malone’s a great player,” James said before the game. ”Awesome player, by the way.”
It also was the 29th straight regular-season game in which James scored at least 20 points and 45th consecutive overall.
That is just one of two streaks James has going as he didn’t get called for a personal foul for a sixth straight game. James’ most recent foul was an offensive call against New Orleans on Dec. 8. He has played 250 minutes, 4 seconds without being whistled for a personal foul, though he was hit with a technical for arguing a no-call late in the first half on Saturday.
”I’d be concerned if he was just standing around, if he was hiding and taking himself out of plays and taking mini-vacations on possessions,” Spoelstra said. ”But he’s been activating our defense. And when you have his type of athletic, God-given ability and you add that to his mind and then the preparation, he can be one or two steps ahead of the play – which allows him to be a playmaker defensively.”
For his part, James said he is enjoying the no-foul streak more than anything else.
”That means I’m putting myself in the right position and I’m not getting out of position,” James said. ”Just trying to be there before plays actually happen. That means I’m helping my teammates out on offense and defense.”
And of course, there is also the Heat winning streak, now up to four games, all by at least 11 points and by an average of 18.
Just in time for the Finals rematch with the Thunder.
”I’m sure they’ll be motivated,” Spoelstra said of the Thunder.
Miami scored the first eight points of the second half to create some breathing room. James started by making a jumper, then set up Battier – who started in place of Bosh – for a 3-pointer. Battier then made another 3 off an assist from Wade to give Miami a 55-43 edge by the time the third quarter was 90 seconds old.
The margin eventually grew to 20, but Utah wasn’t done.
The Jazz cut the deficit by the end of the third, getting within 73-63, and the Heat lead was only eight after a free throw by Millsap with 4:40 remaining.
That would be the end of the drama.
James drove the lane for a left-handed layup with 3:55 left to put Miami back up by 12, and after a Utah turnover on the ensuing possession, Allen hit a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 97-82 lead.
”We kept fighting,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. ”That’s the great thing about this team. We’re not going to quit against anybody.”
The NBA’s new 90-second pregame countdown clock also played a bit of a role down the stretch.
The Heat were called for a delay-of-game technical with 8:24 remaining, in part because the team wasn’t fully ready to go when the countdown-to-tipoff expired. That led to the team’s first delay warning of the night, and the second came after Norris Cole scored on a reverse layup and then knocked the ball out of the hands of Utah forward Derrick Favors as he prepared to throw an inbounds pass.