NEWARK, N.J. (AP) LeBron James had 31 points and 11 rebounds, and the Miami Heat opened a 16-point first-quarter lead and never looked back in a 108-94 victory over the struggling New Jersey Nets on Sunday night.
The win pulled Miami (54-23) within 2 1/2 games of idle Chicago (56-20) in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat have five games left, one less than the Bulls.
New Jersey played without leading rebounder Kris Humphries (ankle-heel) for the second straight game and it showed on the boards. Miami enjoyed a 50-30 advantage with Eric Dampier grabbing a game-high 14.
Miami’s biggest concern in the game was Wade’s right thigh. He collided with Outlaw in the first quarter and spent the second quarter in the locker room getting treatment for a lateral contusion. He limped on the court after intermission and looked so-so taking warmups, but he played almost 20 minutes in the second half, scoring nine points.
James was the catalyst for the Heat most of the game. He scored 15 points in the first quarter and finished 13 of 18 from the field and three assists shy of his fifth triple-double of the season.
Miami did not waste any time in beating the Nets for the third time in as many games this season, and seventh in a row overall. The Heat jumped out to a 17-4 lead with James and Wade doing most of the damage.
Wade scored six points and had an assist on an ally-oop to James that started a run of nine straight points by James.
The Heat led 26-10 after a Wade 3-pointer, and 32-18 at the end of the quarter, hitting an amazing 15 of 20 shots.
The Nets, who shot only 33 percent in the quarter, were still within 14 points at the half before twice cutting the margin to seven points in the third quarter.
The closest the Nets got was 83-77 on two free throws by Lopez with 7:44 to go.
However, Bosh hit a jumper in the lane and James Jones hit a 3-pointer to ignite an 11-2 spurt that put the game away.
NOTES: Miami is 26-13 on the road, best in the Eastern Conference. … James has scored in double figures in 75 straight games for Miami, tying Alonzo Mourning for third best in franchise history. … Humphries will also miss Tuesday night’s game here against Minnesota. … James thrilled the crowd when he banked in a shot from half court after a whistle.