Chris Bosh saluted his grandmother. LeBron James made a halfcourt shot to end his easy night. Dwyane Wade stood with no pain afterward.
After a two-game slide, the Miami Heat got rolling again.
James scored 21 points, Bosh added 20 in his return to the lineup and the Heat led by as many as 40 points on the way to rolling past the New Jersey Nets 108-78 on Tuesday night.
”One good quality, of many qualities that we have on this basketball team, is the ability to own `it,”’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”And the last two games, we did not play the way we’re capable of. We certainly did not play to our identity on either end of the court.”
That was fixed in a hurry.
The Heat made 12 of their first 15 shots on the way to a 10th straight home win. James finished 9 for 11, adding nine rebounds and six assists, and the 78 points allowed matched Miami’s season-best.
About the only thing that didn’t go right for Miami turned out to be no big deal. Wade turned his right ankle late in the first half and did not return, finishing with 13 points. Wade missed six games earlier this season after spraining the same ankle, though said he would play against Atlanta on Wednesday and would have returned against the Nets if needed.
”Not worried at all,” Wade said.
Deron Williams, who was coming off an NBA season-high 57 points in a win over Charlotte, scored 16 for the Nets. MarShon Brooks scored 12 and Johan Petro added 11 for New Jersey, which lost to the Heat for the ninth straight time.
Miami’s lead was 64-37 at the half, the Heat having shot a season-best 66 percent in the first two quarters.
”This team is better than us and they came out and played like it,” Williams said. ”No reason to analyze it.”
New Jersey was without Brook Lopez, who’s expected to miss the next three weeks with a sprained right ankle. His replacement, Shelden Williams, went scoreless in 17 minutes.
Miami’s ”Big Three” of James, Bosh and Wade combined for 54 points on 24 of 33 shooting. All 12 Heat players either scored or logged double-figure minutes and even little-used center Eddy Curry got into the act, getting into his 10th game of the season and playing the final 5:59.
Bosh had missed Miami’s last three games while dealing with the death of his grandmother, and had a message written to her on his game sneakers.
”She wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bosh said. ”She’d tell me, `Go back to work. Work hard.’ She lives on in our minds, so I came back to work.”
With the win, Miami (29-9) pulled within two games of the Chicago Bulls (32-8) for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. And the Heat are apparently getting into scoreboard-watching mode, with Spoelstra spending part of the team’s shootaround Tuesday morning going over the latest standings and where Miami matches up among the other NBA elite.
Maybe the Heat were inspired. Other than an early five-point deficit, there was little to worry about in this one, other than one misstep from Wade. He turned the ankle shortly before halftime, waved off assistance from Heat trainer Jay Sabol as he walked off the floor, and was replaced in the second-half starting lineup by Shane Battier.
”Not a concern, just more a precaution,” James said. ”We had the game, I don’t want to say under wraps, but we had a good comfortable lead to start the second half.”
Wade was joking and laughing on the bench with teammates during the second half. He walked with no limp after the game, and appeared at his locker without any ice or other visible signs of treatment.
Everything was going Miami’s way, even in the first quarter when Dexter Pittman posted up against the Nets’ Kris Humphries to the left of the basket. He turned, shot wildly, watched the ball kiss the top of the backboard and fall softly through the hoop.
Miami led by as many as 27 in the first half, then stretched the lead to 33 in the third quarter and as many as 40 in the fourth.
”A rough night for us,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. ”We talked about having good starts. We were down early and we were down late. They were about three steps quicker than us. They played kind of more of a playoff level and we were more of a preseason level and it showed in their performance. Give them all of the credit. This wasn’t one of our better nights.”
Norris Cole scored 13 points, Battier added 11 and Pittman finished with 10 for the Heat, who outrebounded New Jersey 43-29.
Notes: Miami had 30 assists to New Jersey’s 14. … Including playoffs, the Heat are now 45-13 when Bosh scores at least 20 points. … The teams only combined for 21 free throw attempts, with the Nets shooting 12 and the Heat nine. In his 57-point game, Williams shot 21 by himself. … Former University of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris sat courtside.