CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mike Miller is content playing a complementary role for the Miami Heat.
But on Friday night, Miller was thrust into the spotlight with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen out with injuries, and he delivered a season-high 26 points to lead the Heat past the Charlotte Bobcats. 89-79.
The 13-year veteran started for just the 10th time this season, played 30 minutes, and wound up hitting 9 of 15 from the field and 7 of 11 from 3-point range.
Coach Erik Spoelstra was glowing in his praise of the 6-foot-8 sharpshooter, who has now scored 56 points in the three games that James and Wade have been missing.
"It's great to see him that aggressive, with that mindset," Spoelstra said. "He's a big-time weapon we have and he has absolutely bought into the sacrifice. This is probably the healthiest he's ever been at this time of the season and you can see his value.
"He can strike it hot at any moment and go on a streak of four, five, six in a row, and he's unique at his size he can get his shot off, and he can also put the ball on the floor," Spoelstra said. "So when we don't have a Dwyane and a LeBron to make some triggers for us, he's able to create some of those off the dribble."
Miller said he is starting to find his rhythm as the Heat -- who improved to a league-best 59-16 -- start fine-tuning for the playoffs.
"I was being aggressive," Miller said. "Obviously we had a lot of points sitting on the bench, so there are going to be shots and you've got to be aggressive. It felt good. It's all about getting rhythm and right now we're trying to find the guys who unfortunately haven't gotten a lot of playing time, and it's time for us to get in a rhythm in case they need us in the playoffs."
The Heat also got 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Chris Bosh, and 14 points from Rashard Lewis on a night when they led by as many as 15. Miami led just 48-45 at halftime, but then held the Bobcats to eight third-quarter points and gradually pulled away.
Charlotte finished at 31.8 percent from the field with the usually-high scoring guard duo of Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson combining to go 5-for-31 from the field. Walker finished with 12 points and Henderson 11.
The Bobcats were just 3 of 16 from the field in the eight-point third quarter.
"Defense is the first thing we talk about from the beginning of training camp," Bosh said. "And especially with this group we had tonight. We had to play good defense to give ourselves a chance to win. I think we gave a great defensive effort tonight."
Spoelstra would not speculate on when James, Wade and Allen will return, but said he liked the way his players have responded in their absence.
"These guys are very capable and they have a lot of pride," Spoelstra said. "And they're able to step up. It's not necessarily what they did tonight that's the difficult part, it's keeping themselves ready, keeping their minds engaged, physically doing all the conditioning so now when they have all these minutes it's not a shock to their bodies. It's all a testament to the fact that they're buying into what we're trying to do."
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the Bobcats with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
The Bobcats are now a league-worst 18-58.
"I thought we played really hard and played a clean, efficient game," Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. "The last three weeks have been marvelous in terms of the physical effort. We've had a great home stand. I want more of the same. They're playing together. I just want them to keep this kind of enthusiasm for each other and keep playing the game the right way."
NOTES: James missed his third straight game because of a strained right hamstring. Wade missed his third straight game because of a sprained right ankle, and Allen sat with a sprained right ankle. Mario Chalmers, who had missed the previous three games with a sprained right ankle, returned and had six points in 27 minutes. ... The Bobcats were also short-handed, missing Ramon Sessions with a sprained left knee, Brendan Haywood with a stress reaction in his left foot and Byron Mullens with left ankle soreness. ... Miami has now won 12 straight in the series. ... The Bobcats will now head out on a three-game road trip, starting Saturday at Brooklyn. They'll also play at Memphis and Detroit on the trip. ... The Heat will return home to face Philadelphia on Saturday.