Miami: LeBron James jammed home 30 points as the NBA champion Miami Heat silenced the Utah Jazz 105-89 on Saturday to move past the New York Knicks atop the Eastern Conference.
Miami turned a four-point lead at intermission into a double-digit cushion by scoring the first eight points of the third quarter helped by a pair of three-pointers by Shane Battier.
The lead was stretched to 20 points but Utah battled back to close the gap, getting as close as eight in the fourth quarter, though the Heat were never seriously threatened.
The Heat won every quarter, building their lead behind the all-round brilliance of James and an equally well-rounded effort by his running mate Dwyane Wade to lift Miami’s record to 18-6, and push past the fast-starting New York Knicks (19-7).
James shared the team lead with nine rebounds and seven assists, while Wade scored 21 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists.
Miami shot a blistering 52 per cent from the floor, including 11-for-24 from three-point range in improving to 13-2 on their home court.
The Jazz, who were paced by Marvin Williams with 16 points, continued their road struggles, falling to 5-12 away from home.
James has scored at least 20 points in all 24 Heat games this season, matching the longest such streak to start a season since former Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone in the 1989-90 campaign.
Miami, winners of four straight games, will put their streak on the line on Christmas against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder (21-5) in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, Kosta Koufos scored a season-high 16 points, and Kenneth Faried and Andre Iguodala added 15 points apiece as the Denver Nuggets beat Charlotte 110-88 and sent the Bobcats to their 15th consecutive loss on Saturday night.
JaVale McGee added 14 points, and Danilo Gallinari had 12 for Denver, which won its sixth in a row at home since its only loss there — 98-93 to Miami on November 15.
Charlotte, playing the second of a back-to-back set on the road, was without injured guards Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon. Henderson sustained a bruised shin during the second half of a 115-100 loss at Golden State on Friday. Gordon missed a second consecutive game because of soreness in his right knee.
Ramon Sessions had 23 points to lead Charlotte. Byron Mullens added 16.
Denver lost guard Ty Lawson to a left Achilles strain during the second quarter. He was held out the rest of the game for precautionary reasons, the team said.
The Nuggets, who missed an NBA-record 22 3-point attempts in Thursday night’s 101-93 loss at Portland, missed their first six against the Bobcats. Jordan Hamilton finally found the range to give the Nuggets a 40-31 lead with 8:02 left in the second quarter.
That seemed to break the Nuggets’ long-distance cold spell, complementing a sizzling inside game that saw Denver earn 36 assists and score 78 points in the paint, both season highs.
After a driving layup by Sessions pulled the Bobcats to within 44-39, the Nuggets went on a 15-3 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala. That stretched Denver’s lead to 59-44 with 45.2 seconds left in the second quarter.
Gallinari hit another 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to put Denver in front 64-46, the Nuggets’ biggest lead to that point.
By the end of the third quarter, the Nuggets stretched their advantage to 88-65 following a tip shot by McGee, who finished with 14 points. Denver began substituting freely the rest of the way, and the undermanned Bobcats didn’t threaten.