MIAMI — LeBron James arrived at AmericanAirlines Arena extra early Monday, his first day back since that 61-point performance a week earlier.
The Miami Heat had lost three straight games on the road, and James wanted to remember the feeling of shooting on his home floor.
Unfortunately, the King’s court was unavailable four and a half hours before tip-off.
"I realized there were some kids out there playing, so I wasn’t able to get the floor until after our shootaround," James said. "It felt good to get out there and get a good sweat and prepare for the game."
There was no kidding around when James and his teammates took the court against the Washington Wizards a few hours later. Miami’s Big Three — James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh — combined for 67 points and powered a 99-90 victory to snap the Heat’s losing streak.
James scored 23 points, Wade and Bosh each had 22 for Miami, which flexed its muscle with a decisive 12-0 fourth-quarter run to secure the win.
James rebounded from a road trip during which he shot 39 percent (23 of 59) immediately following his career-high and team-record 61-point performance last Monday against Charlotte.
"I wasn’t stressing the slump I was in shooting," he said. "I just kept taking the same shots but getting some in."
Despite being more aggressive offensively against the Wizards, James did not attempt a free throw for the second consecutive game — something that hadn’t happened since he was a rookie Dec. 3-6, 2003.
"Very surprising, very," James said when asked about not being able to get to the line.
Translation: Ask the refs.
Wade, meanwhile, played in both ends of back-to-back games for the just third time in 12 such situations this season. He responded by scoring 20 or more points for the seventh time in eight games and scored 13 fourth-quarter points to fuel Miami’s late surge.
He had 25 points in Sunday afternoon’s overtime loss at Chicago.
"We needed this win," Wade said. "We’ve been playing good basketball and then we hit this road trip and played against teams (Houston, San Antonio, Chicago) that have been playing very well. We weren’t able to pull it in Sunday. We had our opportunity, up 12 in the fourth quarter and not able to pull it in.
"We weren’t down on ourselves (but) we don’t like losing two games row and we lost three. It was a good way to pick it back up."
With the postseason quickly approaching, Wade is looking more like the perennial All-Star guard than the veteran battling knee issues.
"If he can pass a series of exercises and tests … and if his legs feel good, why hold back?" Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We anticipated early in the year that he would feel better (as the season went on), but nothing’s guaranteed."
That’s certainly true about the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Indiana currently holds a one-game lead over Miami in the race for home-court advantage in the conference playoffs, though the Heat have played two fewer games.
Miami’s 0-for-3 trip occurred when the Pacers also struggled. Indiana enters Tuesday’s game against Boston on a four-game skid.
"You look at us and say, ‘Oh, it’s a missed opportunity,’ " Wade said. "You look at them and say the same thing, ‘It’s a missed opportunity.’ But you know what? It’s the time of the year. There are good teams in this league. You’re going to lose ballgames. You just have to catch yourself. Tonight, we were able to catch ourself."
Fellow Big Three member Bosh also did his part, hitting 10 of 14 shots and grabbing seven rebounds.
"We kind of got into too much pick-and-roll basketball against the Bulls and they were able to flatten us by switching and it stalled is a little bit," Bosh said. "Today we wanted to do a better of executing."
Besides better execution, Bosh said a more determined mental approach would be needed as the Heat head into the stretch run.
"You think about, ‘We’re winning this game. It doesn’t matter how we win it, but we’re going to do it and we’re going to force the issue,’ " Bosh said. "Right now, we just have to play with more of a chip on our shoulder, and little bit more of an edge. That will give us a better advantage going forward."