DALLAS — This was too easy for LeBron James and the Miami Heat against a Dallas team already missing Dirk Nowitzki when it was plagued by more injuries.
There was no semblance of their two NBA Finals matchups against each other.
James scored 24 points with some early baskets on nifty passes from Dwyane Wade, and the Heat rolled to a 110-95 victory Thursday night, a game in which Miami led by 36 points before James and Wade sat out entire fourth quarter.
“I’m just playing within the game,” said Wade, who had 19 points and six assists. “My job is to do a little bit of everything right now.”
Including getting the ball to James, who has scored at least 20 points in all 23 games, the longest streak to start an NBA season since Karl Malone’s 24 in a row opening the 1989-90 season.
“I’m just very comfortable and confident in my ability,” James said. “I put a lot of work into my game. It’s always good when you put in the work and implement that into a game situation.”
Nowitzki, the Mavs’ 11-time All-Star, hasn’t played this season though he practiced for the first time this week since arthroscopic right knee surgery Oct. 19. Dallas is now without starting point guard Derek Fisher (right knee) and post players Elton Brand (right groin) and Brandan Wright (right ankle).
The Heat never trailed after James drove for a short floater 3 minutes into the game. They had their first double-digit lead, 22-11, when James made a 3-pointer with 4½ minutes left in the first quarter.
“We don’t want to give a team too much confidence at home. We understand this team was short-handed,” Wade said. “We wanted to come out here on the road and make a statement.”
Chris Bosh added 17 points as the Heat played only their second road game since Nov. 17. They return home to play Utah on Saturday before an NBA Finals rematch against Oklahoma City on Christmas Day.
Rookie Jae Crowder had 15 points to lead six Dallas players in double figures. Dahntay Jones and Bernard James had 12 points each.
LeBron James’ first 3 came in between two impressive passes from Wade, who didn’t yet have James or Dallas native Bosh as teammates when the Heat clinched their first NBA title in the same building in June 2006.
Dallas is much changed team since winning the 2011 NBA title over the Heat, in the star trio’s first season together. Miami is now defending a championship this season.
“Much better team than we were. We know each other,” James said. “We can close our eyes and where we’re going to be offensively and defensively.”
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wholeheartedly agrees with that assessment, and is dealing with the opposite side of that since Nowitzki and Shawn Marion are the only current Dallas players who actually played in the NBA Finals only two seasons ago.
“They’re so much better now since they’ve been together and there’s a lot to be said about being together,” Carlisle said. “Right now one of our struggles, we have a group that hasn’t been together too much. ... And it’s been challenging.”
TIMBERWOLVES 99, THUNDER 93
MINNEAPOLIS — J.J. Barea scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and the Minnesota Timberwolves ended Oklahoma City’s 12-game winning streak with a 99-93 victory over the Thunder on Thursday night.
Kevin Love had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Nikola Pekovic had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. But it was Barea who was the key, scoring 12 straight at one point for the Wolves to hold off the team with the best record in the league.
Kevin Durant had 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder, who had not lost a game since Nov. 23 at Boston.
TRAIL BLAZERS 101, NUGGETS 93
PORTLAND, Ore. — J.J. Hickson had 18 points and 18 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double, and the Trail Blazers beat the Nuggets.
Nicolas Batum had 22 points to give the Blazers their first four-game winning streak of the season despite missing forward LaMarcus Aldridge because of a sprained left ankle.
The Nuggets were 0 for 22 from 3-point range, breaking the NBA record of 20 misses without a made 3-pointer set by the Trail Blazers in a game against Toronto last week. Denver had 74 points in the paint.
The Blazers led by as many as 18 in the first half and while the Nuggets were able to close the gap, they were never able to pull even.