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James shines in Miami's 97-81 win over Charlotte

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Forget about the Big Three for once.

On Saturday night, the Miami Heat were simply forward LeBron James and a strong bench.

James scored 30 points in 32 minutes and then turned things over to forward Michael Beasley, center Chris Andersen and other Heat backups down the stretch in a 97-81 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

It was the Heat's third straight win and second in two nights, and it came with center Chris Bosh (foul trouble) playing just 15 minutes, guard Dwyane Wade (sore knees) playing just 22, and guard Mario Chalmers serving a one-game suspension.

James exited with 7:52 remaining with the Heat leading 78-70 and watched the reserves push the lead up to as many as 17 down the stretch. Beasley finished with 15 points, Anderson had 10 points and seven rebounds, and forward Rashard Lewis and guard Roger Mason Jr. had nine each.

"I'm extremely proud of them, the way they were able to bump the lead up," James said. "I had intentions of going back in, but once they got going I said let them keep going. They had a great rhythm. It was great to see."

It was their 13th straight over the Bobcats, their longest winning streak against any NBA team.

"We know that we didn't handle our last back-to-back well, and there's a couple of games we felt we didn't play well after winning, so we wanted to come in tonight with a different mindset," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

"We came in with a better motor," Spoelstra added. "We had to deal with a lot - some foul trouble, guys in and out of the lineup, missing guys. So I'm proud of the group, and I'm really proud of the group that finished. To be able to earn that trust and to keep playing hard with confidence, and playing for each other, they earned the right to finish that game. We haven't done that very often."

The win moved the Heat to 7-3 and completed a weekend sweep after beating Dallas 110-104 at home on Friday.

James had 20 first-half points, when the Heat led by as many as 16. He finished 13 of 18 from the field and also had seven assists and four rebounds. He had gone for a season-high 39 points against Dallas on Friday.

"When you see him attacking off the glass and pushing coast to coast, you know he's feeling good with his body," Spoelstra said. "It sets a great tone for our basketball team - getting into the paint, getting to the rim, three-point plays. He was playing with great energy and that disposition on both ends of the court. It was very encouraging to see."

Bosh finished with just seven points and three rebounds, and Wade - who exited midway through the third quarter and went back to the locker room at one point - finished with four points on 1 of 7 shooting.

James was eager to talk about the defense afterward. The Bobcats shot just 34.9 percent from the field on 29 of 83.

"That what we want to do," James said. "We want to continue to get our defensive rankings up. We understand at the end of the day if we don't play defense we're not going to be able to compete for what we want to compete for. So it was great to see us come out tonight with a lot of energy despite a close game last night and flying in from Miami. When we're active, we're tough to beat."

Spoelstra said he was disappointed by the league's decision to suspend Chalmers after he elbowed Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki in the head and drew a Flagrant 2 foul on Friday night.

"I disagree with the suspension," Spoelstra said before the game. "Mario doesn't have the reputation of being that type of player. The penalty seemed very severe, and there are ramifications for the future. But we'll deal with it."

Charlotte fell to 5-5 and had a two-game winning streak snapped. Guard Kemba Walker led the Bobcats with 22 points but was 7 of 18 from the field. The Bobcats also got 14 points from forward Jeffery Taylor, 13 from guard Gerald Henderson and 11 from guard Ramon Sessions.

NOTES: The Heat were also missing G Ray Allen (cold) and F Udonis Haslem (back spasms). ... Bobcats C Al Jefferson missed his second straight game and his seventh of the year with a bone bruise in his right ankle. Coach Steve Clifford said it's a chronic injury that goes back two seasons. ... This was the first of four meetings between the Southeast Division rivals this season. ... Charlotte's last win in the series came on March 9, 2010. ... James came into the game third in the NBA in scoring at 27.0 ppg. He is also third in the league in field-goal percentage at .610. ... The Bobcats will play at Chicago on Monday and then will close out November with six games in a 10-day stretch. Five of those six games are at home. ... The Heat return home to face Atlanta on Tuesday.
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