With Dwyane Wade sitting out in Cleveland on Tuesday night to rest his knees, it appeared early LeBron James was headed for another record-setting scoring performance against his former team.
James finished with 43 points — only 12 in the second half — and sank 6 of 6 free throws in the final 1:06 to lead the Heat to a 100-96 victory against the Cavaliers.
Chris Bosh added 21 points, including 12 in the fourth when James was held without a field goal. The King only took three second-half shots — sinking two — but allowed his teammates to take advantage of Cleveland focusing on No. 6.
Bosh and James each had a key block in the final minutes, as did Udonis Haslem. The veteran Heat forward, who has played sparingly this season, had six rebounds in eight minutes off the bench.
James also had six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.
With Wade resting the front end of a back to back, Toney Douglas started and finished with nine points and five assists. Wade was expected to be ready for Wednesday night’s game at Boston.
The Heat (46-19) improved to 11-6 overall — winning six straight — without Wade and moved to within three games of Eastern Conference-leading Indiana (50-17).
James scored 31 first-half points — on 12-of-16 shooting — to help Miami build a 59-54 cushion after having led by as many as 14 points early. James’ first-half scoring effort tied the franchise record set by Sherman Douglas and tied by Dwyane Wade.
James had 25 points and hit 10 of 11 shots (5 of 6 from long distance) to help the Heat build a 37-25 advantage after one quarter. James’ effort tied his franchise record for most points in a quarter, which he set in the third quarter of his 61-point performance against Charlotte on March 3.
Center Greg Oden made his third overall and and second consecutive start. He had six points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.
Cleveland outscored Miami in the paint 44-24, but the Heat forced 20 turnovers that resulted in 26 points.
THE TURNING POINT
Bosh’s 3-pointer with 3:25 remaining coming out of a timeout gave Miami a 91-88 edge. His jumper with 2:21 to go built a five-point lead and Miami held on.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Bosh, by stepping up in the fourth quarter when Cleveland’s defense heaped limit James.
STAT OF THE GAME
Haslem’s six rebonds, including four in four fourth-quarter minutes.
The Heat will play the Celtics at Boston 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.