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With big night from James, Heat top Hawks, 101-92

Posted: December 11, 2012 - 1:05am
Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith (5) prepares to shoot over Miami Heat's Shane Battier, center, and Chris Bosh in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec, 10, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)  Alan Diaz
Alan Diaz
Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith (5) prepares to shoot over Miami Heat's Shane Battier, center, and Chris Bosh in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec, 10, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

MIAMI — LeBron James leaped as high as he can soar. Dwyane Wade shot better than he ever has before.

And when the Miami Heat stars are on their games like that ... “We probably won’t lose,” James said.

Such was the case Monday night. James scored 27 points, Wade had 26 and the Heat pulled away in the second half to beat the Atlanta Hawks 101-92, improving to 10-1 at home this season.

James (10 for 16) and Wade (11 for 13, the best single-game shooting percentage of his career) made 21 of 29 shots for Miami, which shot 58 percent as a team. Chris Bosh had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Norris Cole made all four of his shots to score 10 for the Heat, who handed the Hawks just their second loss in 11 games.

“Just trying to be as efficient as I can,” Wade said. “Shooting 13 shots, it’s nothing I’m used to. Some nights you go for 11-for-13. Some nights you go 3 for 13. But you just try to continue to be aggressive and continue taking shots.”

Josh Smith scored 22 points and Al Horford finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta, which briefly held the lead midway through the third quarter before the Heat got rolling and moved 1½ games ahead of the Hawks in the Southeast Division.

Atlanta has dropped both games against Miami this season and is 1-7 against the Heat since March 2011.

“We gave LeBron and D-Wade some opportunities to be able to get some layups early on and whenever you play against a team like that or whenever you give a great player opportunities to get layups first, the rim gets that much bigger,” Smith said. “And they started hitting all kinds of shots.”

A big third-quarter run put the Heat in control, and one of James’ best dunks this season helped seal it in the fourth. Cole took a pass from Ray Allen, dribbled once and nonchalantly flipped the ball toward the rim.

James, who also had seven rebounds and six assists, did the rest.

James leaped — the top of his fingers stretched easily more than a foot above the basket — for a slam with 9:51 left, and the Heat weren’t threatened in the final minutes.

“Cole made me go get it, for sure,” James said. “He actually took that literally when I told him, ‘Just throw it anywhere.’”

Said Wade: “That’s his bionic leg.”

Wade is now 20 for 25 in his last two games from the floor, scoring 26 points in each, and maybe it’s not a coincidence that those outings came after NBA analyst Charles Barkley — Wade’s one-time cell phone commercial co-star — said what he’s been saying many times in the past couple years: The 2006 NBA Finals MVP’s game is declining.

“It means Charles Barkley needs to shut up,” James said. “I mean, the man’s shooting 80 percent from the floor in the last couple games. Come on, man. That’s like crazy, right? That’s why who he is.”

The Heat came into Monday night talking about how this particular game was significant for many reasons, foremost among them the Hawks’ position in the division.

And while it’s way too early to take more than a passing interest in the standings, Miami had taken notice of Atlanta’s early success.

“We’ve been watching,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The up-close-and-personal view wasn’t a surprise, then.

Miami led 56-54 at intermission, a well-played half where neither team led by more than five points. The Heat shot 64 percent from the field in the opening two quarters, 50 percent from 3-point range — but a mere 44 percent from the line, part of the reason why the margin was only two points at the break.

James finished each of the first two quarters with a flurry, first going 1-on-4 for a driving layup to give Miami a 28-26 lead, then blowing past Horford for a layup-and-foul and putting the Heat up two with 14.6 seconds left in the half.

The Hawks were helped mightily by a friend of Heat opponents of late, the 3-pointer. Atlanta made seven from beyond the arc in the half, and through three quarters, Smith was 4 for 4 — already matching his career-best single-game total from long range.

But in the third, Miami began to flex its muscles.

Jeff Teague made a 3-pointer midway through the third to give Atlanta a 65-63 lead, but after that, Miami took off running.

“We made just entirely too many mistakes,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “Too many mental mistakes against a very good a basketball team. Against Miami you can’t do that.”

A 17-4 run was the difference maker, turning a two-point deficit into an 11-point lead with 1:24 remaining in the third. Wade got it started with a jumper, and he wound up with eight during the burst, including a layup off a perfect pass by James from the right side of the lane. Shane Battier made two 3-pointers in the run, including the shot that ended it, and Miami’s margin was suddenly 80-69.

NOTES: Celebrities were everywhere, with Jay-Z (a close friend of James, who gave his pal a long look after the alley-oop slam on the Cole pass) and Beyonce near the Hawks’ bench, Floyd Mayweather Jr. across from the Miami bench and Lil Wayne watching from his now-usual baseline seat, headphones on virtually all night. ... The Heat were without Udonis Haslem (flu), and the Hawks played without Kyle Korver (back spasms). ... Smith entered the night 8 for 21 from 3-point range. ... The Heat caught a break late in the second quarter, when a pass from James was headed out of bounds before it caromed off the leg of referee Karl Lane. Mario Chalmers wound up setting James up for a layup and a 50-49 Miami lead.

In other games:

SPURS 134, ROCKETS 126, OT

HOUSTON — Gary Neal hit seven 3-pointers and scored 29 points, and Tony Parker had a triple-double with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to lead San Antonio over Houston.

Jeremy Lin had his best game since joining the Rockets, scoring a career high-tying 38 points with leading scorer James Harden sidelined by a sprained right ankle.

Neal’s last 3-pointer followed by a three-point play by Manu Ginobili put the Spurs ahead 130-122 with two minutes left in overtime, and they held on for the win. It was San Antonio’s fifth straight win overall and second over Houston in three days after a 114-92 victory Friday.

Houston is 0-2 since coach Kevin McHale returned to the bench following the death of his daughter.

WARRIORS 104, BOBCATS 96

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Stephen Curry put on a show for his hometown fans, finishing with 27 points, seven assists and seven rebounds to lead Golden State over Charlotte.

Curry, who grew up in Charlotte and made a name for himself leading nearby Davidson College to the brink of the Final Four in 2008, shot 10 of 22 from the field and hit four 3-pointers. It was his eighth straight 20-point game, a career best.

David Lee had 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors (14-7), who have won seven of their past eight games and improved to 4-0 on their current seven-game Eastern trip.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points to lead the Bobcats, who have lost eight straight.

MAVERICKS 119, KINGS 96

DALLAS (AP) — O.J. Mayo scored 19 points and Dallas took control with a 31-3 run in the first half to beat Sacramento for the 17th straight time at home during the regular season.

Chris Kaman, playing on a sprained left ankle he suffered last week, scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half for Dallas.

Francisco Garcia, who was 7 of 12 from 3-point range, and DeMarcus Cousins scored 25 points apiece for the Kings, who haven’t won in Dallas during the regular season since Feb. 27, 2003.

Mayo hit a jumper late in the first quarter to kick off the game-turning run for the Mavs, who led by as many as 28 in the first half and were up 65-43 at halftime. s:

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