James leads Heat to win over Jazz

Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- The Indiana Pacers are next.
You know, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference and perhaps the biggest threat to the Miami Heat's plan of reaching the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season.
But even though the Pacers beat Miami last week, the Heat issued a collective yawn after its 117-94 win over the Utah Jazz Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"It will be a good regular-season game," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said of Wednesday's home game, making it clear that Miami's focus is on the playoffs.
Monday's win over Utah was also a good regular-season game -- for two quarters. Utah led the two-time reigning NBA champion Heat 50-47 at halftime.
But Miami took control of the game in the third quarter, when it outscored Utah 36-21. Heat forward Chris Bosh was huge in the third, making all five of his shots from the field and all three of his foul shots for 13 of his 20 points.
Overall, Heat forward LeBron James nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists -- all team highs. He also made an efficient 13 of 17 shots from the floor. And all that was in 33 minutes and on a gimpy left ankle that caused him to exit with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
James returned with 7:01 left in the fourth quarter, but, by that point, Bosh and Wade (27 points) had already handled business.
"They know who they are," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Miami. "If LeBron goes down, those other two guys are very capable of stepping up. Wade was the guy carrying the load for them tonight, and then Bosh got going. They're a good ballclub.
"If you make a mistake, they make you pay. And we made too many mistakes in the second half."
The Heat (18-6) is now 4-1 in its past five games and is in second place in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana, which beat the Heat 90-84 last Tuesday, lost to Detroit Monday night but still has a two-game lead over Miami in the battle for home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
But as much as fans may be excited in anticipation of Wednesday's game between the top two teams in the East, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra echoed Wade's sentiments.
"It's the same as with any one of our games," he said. "It's an opportunity to get better, to take that challenge against a quality opponent."
Utah reserve guard Alec Burks took that challenge Monday night. He scored a career-high 31 points -- the biggest output for any Utah player this season.
Burks was also very efficient in his 34 minutes of action, making 12 of 17 shots and adding seven assists, four steals and three rebounds. He had just two turnovers.
As good as he was, however, he was unable to keep the Jazz (6-21) from losing for the sixth time in their past eight games.
"Alec did a great job attacking," said Corbin, whose team is in last place in the Western Conference. "He was able to come off some pick and rolls, get down in the lane a few times, and he was able to make the right passes. I really like the way he played with a lot of energy."
Burks, who was held to five points in the fourth quarter, was part of a bench that scored 56 points, including 32 in the first half. The Heat bench, in contrast, scored 28 points.
Of course, when Miami's Big Three -- James, Wade and Bosh -- combines for 77 points, who needs a bench?
Overall, the Heat shot a blistering 63.4 percent for the game. Their defense, other than allowing a 30-point second quarter, was pretty good, too, holding Utah to 46 percent shooting.
"This was a good, professional win," Spoelstra said. "We had ball movement, energy and activity."
They also have a star player in James who seems nearly indestructible.
Spoelstra said the ankle injury was checked out in the third quarter but it proved to be too little to stop James.
"It's the ankle that he has tweaked before a few times," Spoelstra said. "He said he was ready to go (back in). We just watched him with a careful eye."
NOTES: The Jazz hope their 2013-2014 rookie crop is a memorable one. Trey Burke, taken ninth overall, could become Utah's next great point guard, a fraternity that includes John Stockton's tenure (1984-2003) and that of Deron Williams (2005-2011). ... In addition to Burke, C Rudy Gobert, taken 27th, and SG Ian Clark, undrafted, comprise the rookie crop. Gobert, 7-foot-1 and athletic, has an especially high ceiling, no pun intended. ... Heat F Michael Beasley (hamstring) missed his fifth straight game. ... Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he was fine with the 3-pointer F Chris "Birdman" Andersen took and made Saturday night against Cleveland. "I don't think he's going to shoot dribble-up-jack 3s," Spoelstra said. "In certain situations, as the ball moves inside out, it's absolutely the right shot to take. (Andersen) works on it all the time." ... Up next for Utah is its second of a five-game road trip, Wednesday at Orlando.

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