Miami trumps Chicago
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI — LeBron James watched from the bench in a stylish gray suit, and with the game deadlocked at halftime, he took off his necktie.
Soon the tie on the scoreboard was gone, too. Stout defense plus Chris Bosh’s outside shooting and a boost from Miami’s reserves helped the Heat overcome the absence of their MVP on Sunday to beat the Chicago Bulls 93-79.
“We were missing a pretty big man,” Dwyane Wade said. “There’s nothing we can do to replace the best player in the world, but we just had to go out there and play team basketball on both ends of the floor.”
James was a late scratch after he broke his nose in Thursday’s win at Oklahoma City, and his teammates picked up the slack. Former NBA No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden replaced James for his first NBA start since December 2009, and reserves Chris Andersen, Michael Beasley and Ray Allen helped the Heat pull away in the second half.
“You don’t want to see guys out,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, who earned his 300th career victory. “But when guys are out, I’m always curious to see how you respond as a team. We’ve have several of these games that could have been excuse games, but guys have stepped up.”
Bosh tied a career high with four 3-pointers and had 28 points and 10 rebounds. Wade added 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Mario Chalmers contributed 12 points and nine assists.
Defense did the rest against the offensively challenged Bulls.
“We’re starting to put it together defensively,” Bosh said. “We got off to a slow start early in the season, but I think right now we’re starting to get it, starting to click.”
Like the Heat, the Bulls were also short-handed, with starter Jimmy Butler a late scratch because of bruised ribs. They shot 36 percent, went 6 for 21 from 3-point range and were called for a 24-second violation at least six times, including twice in a row.
“We weren’t playing with a good enough thrust,” guard Kirk Hinrich said. “We were slow getting into our stuff. We didn’t make quick decisions, and we got stuck fighting the clock.”
Joakim Noah had 20 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for the Bulls, who had won five in a row.
Miami, playing at home for the first time in 20 days, extended its winning streak to five games.
Wade sealed the victory by sinking a jumper with less than three minutes left, giving the Heat their first 18-point lead. Earlier two of his points came on free throws after he improvised a backward somersault when fouled hard in the lane.
Otherwise there weren’t a lot of acrobatics from the typically high-flying Heat, who shot 42 percent and had only seven fast-break points.
Contributing to the workmanlike effort was the 7-foot Oden, playing his 11th game after being sidelined by knee trouble for 3½ years. He had five points and five rebounds in 13 minutes.
“Greg was great,” Spoelstra said. “He’s an active player for somebody that big, and he’s very intelligent. He has a good grasp of what we want to do.”
The stoic Oden shrugged off the milestone of returning to the starting lineup.
“I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable out there, and I think guys are starting to feel more comfortable with me,” he said. “It’s something we can build on. Being able to put me in that starting lineup showed some confidence in me.”
James, missing a game for only the second time this season, drew a big ovation when he was shown on the video scoreboard during an early timeout. During another timeout in the fourth quarter, when the Heat had built a big cushion, he danced to music blaring over the public address system while his teammates huddled.
They scored on seven consecutive possessions during a 16-2 run at the end of the third quarter that put them ahead 65-52. The catalysts were unlikely: In quick succession, Andersen dunked on an alley-oop, Allen hit a runner and Beasley banked home a basket.
“It doesn’t matter if LeBron’s out,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They’re a good team. That team has other players. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade — those are All-Stars, too. The bench is deep. That’s a championship team.”
CLIPPERS 125 THUNDER 117
OKLAHOMA CITY — Jamal Crawford scored 36 points to help the Clippers get the win.
Matt Barnes scored 24 points and Chris Paul had 18 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds for the Clippers, who snapped a two-game skid.
Kevin Durant had 42 points and 10 assists and Serge Ibaka added 20 points for the Thunder, who lost their second straight. It was the most points the Thunder have allowed this season.
Oklahoma City overcame a 15-point deficit late in the third quarter to take a 115-112 lead on a 3-pointer by Durant with 2:43 to play, but the Clippers controlled the game from there.
A 3-pointer by Crawford with 1:30 remaining gave Los Angeles a 119-115 lead.
WIZARDS 96, CAVALIERS 83
CLEVELAND — John Wall scored 21 points and Bradley Beal had 17, leading Washington to the road victory.
The Wizards held the Cavaliers to 11 fourth-quarter points to return to .500 at 28-28 on the season. They also strengthened their hold on the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The strong defensive performance in the final period came after Washington lost Nene to a sprained left knee midway through the third quarter. He had eight points, four rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes.
Luol Deng led Cleveland with 17 points. The Cavaliers played without center Anderson Varejao (sore back) and guards Dion Waiters (hyperextended left knee) and C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle).
Spencer Hawes, playing his second game since being acquired from Philadelphia on Thursday, had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland.
RAPTORS 105, MAGIC 90
TORONTO — Kyle Lowry scored 28 points, DeMar DeRozan had 24 and the Raptors handed the Magic their 15th straight road loss.
Terrence Ross scored 16 and Amir Johnson had 12 points and eight rebounds before leaving with a sprained right ankle in the Raptors’ fifth victory in six games.
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