James leads Heat past Thunder
LeBron James sat silently in front of his locker with a towel draped over his head, not wanting to reveal the effects of a hit to his nose that prematurely ended his night.
His Miami Heat teammates finished off a 103-81 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder without him on Thursday.
Miami’s star forward went down with 5:50 remaining after he was struck by Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka on a drive to the basket. James finished the dunk, but he was bloodied and he left the court with a towel over his face.
“I’m like everybody else, you’re used to seeing him like Superman, get up and sprint back even after tough hits and tough falls,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So we knew something was up.”
James landed the hardest blow long before that. He scored 16 of his 33 points in the first quarter to put the Thunder in a bind, and the Heat rolled to a lopsided win.
James passed a concussion test, but the Thunder were the ones shaken up after James made his first five shots and scored 12 points in the first 4:11.
Elsewhere, the Golden State Warriors outlasted Houston 102-99 in overtime to half the Rockets’ eight-game winning streak, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 101-90.
Dwyane Wade had 24 points and 10 assists, and Chris Bosh added 24 points for Miami, which won its fourth straight and avenged an earlier loss to Oklahoma City. It was a good step for the Heat, who are trying to catch Indiana for the top record in the Eastern Conference.
“You can see the resolve,” Wade said. “You can see the chemistry. You can see a team that’s gearing up for the second half of the season.”
Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Oklahoma City, which lost at home for the first time since Jan. 5.
Durant has been the popular favorite to win the NBA MVP award, but Wade said James was still in the hunt.
“It’s not decided,” Wade said. “I don’t think that was a message. That was LeBron James being LeBron James. He loves the matchup, just like KD loves the matchup. The MVP is long, long from over.”
Golden State’s Stephen Curry made a tying layup with 3.2 seconds left in regulation to send the game with Houston into overtime.
The Warriors got a big boost in overtime when Jermaine O’Neal, who was filling in for injured center Andrew Bogut, blocked Chandler Parsons’ baseline dunk attempt at the rim.
Curry followed with two free throws for a 98-95 lead with 15.9 seconds left. The teams traded free throws as the Rockets ran out of time.
Kenneth Faried continued his recent hot streak, scoring 26 points to carry Denver past Milwaukee.
Faried has been impressive this month, with a 21-point, 10-rebound performance against Phoenix, and a career-high 28 against the Los Angeles Clippers.