LeBron James helped Miami finally find a way past the Milwaukee Bucks, scoring 35 points in the Heat’s 114-96 victory on Monday.
The Bucks had beaten the Heat in both meetings this season and three successive times overall, but they were steamrolled on Monday, despite taking an eight-point lead in the first quarter.
Inflicting most of his damage from close range, James made 16 of 21 field-goal attempts and keyed Miami’s third-quarter surge, where they took a stranglehold on the encounter to cruise to a sixth win in seven games.
Milwaukee’s quick start was erased in the second quarter and they trailed by five at halftime. The Heat upped the pace after the intermission and outscored the home team 35-24 in the third.
James had 16 in the critical third, while Dwyane Wade chipped in with 22 points for the game as Miami (22-7) moved within half a game of the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference lead.
Carlos Delfino finished with a team-high 24 points for the Milwaukee Bucks (12-16), who shot just 39 percent while slumping to their fifth defeat in seven games.
Milwaukee’s struggles have dropped them outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Brandon Jennings, the team’s leading scorer, had 12 points in another sub-par performance.
“We had to get our hands dirty, which we didn’t do in the first two games, but it was a good sign that we did it this way against a very physical team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
MAVERICKS 96, CLIPPERS 92
In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 22 points, 11 in the final six-plus minutes, while Shawn Marion added 16 as Dallas held on to beat Los Angeles.
Jason Terry, Vince Carter and Brendan Haywood all contributed 10 points for the Mavs, who have won 10 in a row at home against the Clippers and extended their overall winning streak to four games.
Caron Butler of the Clippers scored a season-high 23 points against his former team, while Blake Griffin added 20 points. Chris Paul had 16 points and nine assists for the Clippers, but Griffin’s problems from the foul line cost his team as he missed seven of nine free throws.
MAGIC 102, TIMBERWOLVES 89
In Orlando, Florida, Jason Richardson scored 17 points, while Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu each added 14 as Orlando used a big second half to beat Minnesota.
Richardson, who was coming off a season-high 31 points, was strong early against Minnesota, but he sat out the fourth quarter.
The Magic did not need him, though, hitting 12 of 30 three-pointers and with all five starters reaching double figures.
Kevin Love led Minnesota with 19 points and 15 rebounds, but the Timberwolves lost their fourth straight game.
76ERS 98, BOBCATS 89
In Charlotte, North Carolina, Lou Williams scored 23 points off the bench as the Philadelphia 76ers built an early lead and held on to send the Charlotte Bobcats to their 15th straight defeat.
Thaddeus Young added 20 points on six of nine shooting, while Jrue Holiday chipped in with 19 points for the 76ers (20-9).
Williams was averaging 19 points over the previous four games. He stayed hot on Monday night, making several big shots, including a three-pointer with six minutes, 11 seconds remaining after the Bobcats had pulled within 71-69.
Corey Maggette scored a season-high 22 points for Charlotte, who fell to 3-25 for the season.
HORNETS 86, JAZZ 80
In New Orleans, Chris Kaman scored a season-high 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as New Orleans snapped an eight-game losing streak with a victory over Utah.