New York: Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade went on a scoring spree to lift the Heat to a 101-92 victory over Southeast rivals Atlanta on Monday, opening up a 1.5 game gap over the Hawks.
James tallied 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Wade scored 26 points to snap Atlanta’s three-game win streak and keep the Heat (14-5) ahead of the Hawks (12-6).
Reigning league MVP James punctuated the win with a thunderous dunk in the fourth quarter where he took an alley-oop from Norris Cole and soared high above the rim.
“Cole made me go get it, for sure,” James told reporters. “He actually took that literally when I told him, ‘Just throw it anywhere.”
After a close first half, Miami trailed 65-63 in the third quarter before seizing the momentum with a run of nine straight points. The Heat finished the stretch with a 14-2 advantage to open up a 10-point lead.
Wade came to life during the run with eight points, and was red-hot for the game, making 11 of his 13 shots.
Wade, a former NBA Finals MVP, has had a few tough shooting performances this season leading some to worry about his decline but he was at his best against Atlanta.
“I really didn’t listen to the noise. I didn’t pay attention,” Wade said. “I never really concerned myself with the noise outside.”
After two disappointing losses last week, the defending NBA champions have now won two straight.
Josh Smith scored 22 points for the Hawks, and Al Horford finished with 20 and 11 rebounds.
Atlanta employed three guards in their starting lineup, with DeShawn Stevenson, Devin Harris and Jeff Teague, but it did little to jolt their offence.
The visitors shot just 42 percent from the field and could find no way to stop the Heat.
“We had a lot of mistakes defensively,” said Atlanta coach Larry Drew. “They did shoot the ball well and we had defensive breakdowns. And the combination of both was the reason the Miami Heat had such a good shooting percentage.”