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Heat 108, Hornets 89

The SportsXchange

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS -- For LeBron James, it was a stunningly good Friday.

Two days after seeing his team's 27-game winning streak snapped by the Chicago Bulls, James pounded the New Orleans Hornets into submission by scoring 28 of his 36 points in the first half to power the Miami Heat to a 108-89 victory Friday night at the New Orleans Arena.

The victory, which started another winning streak, ensured the Heat (57-15) the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

James' scoring explosion started innocently enough. He missed his first jumper of the game -- a 20-footer one minute in -- but then he nailed his next 10 shots, including six consecutive 3-pointers.

It could have been seven 3-pointers, but James had his toes on the line on one jumper from the right wing. After that shot went through, putting Miami up 39-24, James stood motionless behind the 3-point line and stared at the crowd.

By the time James hit his final 3-pointer of the first half, he had 28 points in the first 15:37 and single-handedly had outscored the entire Hornets team, 28-27.

It took New Orleans nearly 18 minutes to outscore James. Al-Farouq Aminu rebounded a miss and dunked it home with 6:10 left in the second quarter -- making it Hornets 29, James 28 -- but the Hornets actually trailed, 49-29.

James scored 15 points in the first quarter -- his highest-scoring first quarter of the season -- and his 28 points in the first half were his most points in the first half this season.

James missed his next three shots -- a 3-pointer and jumpers from 20 and 18 feet -- before getting his first rest at the 7:00 mark of the second quarter. After returning with 3:13 left in the second quarter, James did not take a shot, and Miami led 60-43 at intermission.

The Heat shot 69.7 percent from the field in the first half (23 of 33), but in a 17:21 span of the first and second quarters, they connected on 20 of 25 shots (80 percent).

His six first-half 3-pointers gave James 100 for the season. It marked the first time in NBA history that a team had four players (James, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers) with at least 100 3-pointers for a season.

James played only 12 minutes in the second half as the Heat coasted to the victory.

Dwayne Wade had 17 points and Norris Cole added 12 for Miami. New Orleans (25-48) was paced by Ryan Anderson with 20.

NOTES: Miami Heat GM Pat Riley wasn't in New Orleans Friday night to watch his team play the Hornets, but he fired an expletive-laden shot across the country at Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge. Riley was upset that Ainge had criticized James for complaining about a couple of hard fouls in the Heat's 101-97 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, when Miami's 27-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history, ended. Heat spokesman Tim Donovan relayed a direct message from Riley to reporters before the game: "Danny Ainge needs to shut the (expletive) up and manage his own team," Riley said. "He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing, and I know that because I coached against him."... Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he relished Riley's comments. "I love direct GM-to-GM communication," Spoelstra said, smiling. "That's awesome."... Chalmers sat out Friday's game with a mildly sprained left ankle. "His injury isn't a major concern right now, but his ankle is a bit swollen from the flight, and we want to be proactive and take care of it with another day of rest. We'll re-evaluate him tomorrow."... Spoelstra raved about Hornets' rookie Anthony Davis. "His skill level is vast," Spoelstra said. "With his length, his speed, his athleticism, his ability to make skilled plays in a lot of different areas, he's going to be an extremely intriguing player as he gets more experience. Talk about a 'position-less' player. You don't know where to put that guy."... Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez sat out the game with a sprained left ankle. Brian Roberts started in his place. "Brian can score the ball, and he's getting a lot of attention for scoring the ball, yet he can also dish it out," Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
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