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Heat impressive in win over Clippers

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- The Los Angeles Clippers had virtually their full team for the first time this season, and the Miami Heat, even without two key members of their rotation, still had LeBron James.

Edge: Miami Heat.

James posted 30 points, six assists and five rebounds to lead the Heat to an impressive 111-89 victory Friday night.

It was his fourth straight game with at least 30 points, tying Dwyane Wade's team record. In those four games, James is averaging 31 points on 73-percent shooting.

"Every game, we try to come up with new superlatives to describe LeBron," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's just the best player in the game, and he continues to re-invent himself.

"If you had to grade shootarounds, today he was fantastic. He doesn't shy away from preparation. In our film sessions, he treats them like he is a coach. If he sees something, he will point it out to the guys.

"I always look to see if a player relaxes. But he is relentless. He absolutely loves the game."

Spoelstra said he needs James to be at his best because he expects the second half of the season to be "very competitive."

Friday's game, however, was not competitive past the first quarter. The Heat outscored the Clippers by 24 points between the second and third quarters to put the game away.

Miami made 53 percent of its shots, including 15 3-pointers, and they did all this without starting forward Chris Bosh, who missed his second straight game with the flu, and key reserve Ray Allen, who is the newest victim of the virus.

Wade, who missed the team's shootaround because of the flu, added 20 points and seven assists.

"I'm OK," Wade said. "I was good enough to come out here and give it all I had for 30 minutes."

As if those illnesses weren't enough, point guard Mario Chalmers limped to the locker room in the first quarter because of a lower-back strain. But he came back and put up 18 points, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers.

The Heat, leaders of the Eastern Conference, improved to 21-3 at home this season. The San Antonio Spurs (22-2) are the only NBA team with fewer home losses so far this season.

The Clippers, meanwhile, who had won two straight over the Heat, including one earlier this season, are winless in Miami since March 10, 2008.

Apparently, it is going to take the Clippers some time to come together. Point guard Chris Paul, who missed the past nine games due to a bruised right kneecap, had three points and two assists.

But just the fact that he played was promising for Paul.

"I'm excited," he said. "You never want to lose, and the Heat shot lights out. But I'm excited that we're getting healthy."

Other Clippers who returned were forward Blake Griffin (strained left hamstring), guard Chauncey Billups (left foot tendonitis) and shooting guard Jamal Crawford (sore right shoulder).

Griffin had 13 points and five rebounds; Billups had seven points and four assists, and Crawford had 13 points and three assists.

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Paul is the key.

"Chris has to take control of the game, and, physically, right now, he just can't do that," Del Negro said. "No excuses. They outplayed us."

Del Negro said Billups "looked good" until his back stiffened up.

"I could have gone with him more," the coach said. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow. But it was good to have him back."

Billups said the Clippers need only make a "small adjustment" in their games.

"The (playing) rotations are different now," he said. "But it shouldn't take us long.

"Give the Heat credit. But, hey, we split with them, 1-1 (on the season series)."

Notes: Paul and Griffin -- both clearly frustrated by their team's play -- were hit with technical fouls with 4:58 left in the third quarter. ... James passed Sherman Douglas for fourth place on the Heat's career assists chart. ... Del Negro did not use forward Grant Hill on Friday. "His knee was a little bit swollen," Del Negro said. "I really wanted to rest him because of his knee being sore." ... Heat forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen didn't put up much in the way of statistics -- eight points and four rebounds -- but he celebrated the fact that Miami picked up his contract for the rest of the season. ... Del Negro has noticed a trend with James. "He's going to the post a little more than before," Del Negro said before Friday's game. "There are just so many ways he can put pressure on you." ... Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe is one of six NBA players invited to compete in the dunk contest on All-Star weekend in Houston. Del Negro said Bledsoe has done a good job this season when he has had to fill in at point guard. "He has picked his spots on when to be aggressive," the coach said. "He plays the passing lanes as well as anybody on defense. The experience he got will hopefully make us stronger down the stretch once we get fully healthy." ... The Clippers' six-game road trip continues Sunday with a game against the New York Knicks and ends Monday in Philadelphia against the 76ers. ... The Heat plays host to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
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