LeBron James and the Miami Heat still have plenty of improving to do, the kind of strides James hopes will put this team in the championship hunt come June.
But things certainly seem to be clicking for the Heat at last following a recent funk.
Dwyane Wade had 34 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, James added 25 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and Miami won its season-best seventh straight game with a 106-84 victory over the cold-shooting Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
Miami also established a franchise best with seven consecutive wins by double digits, topping the six in a row in February 1999.
"Me and D-Wade have figured it out," James said. "We just started going back to our games, what made us who we are in this league. It’s resulted in us playing good basketball, offensively and defensively."
The Heat, who lost three of four from Nov. 20-27, moved into first place in the Southeast Division for the first time all season after the Orlando Magic lost their season-high fourth straight at Utah.
Monta Ellis had 20 points and seven assists and Dorell Wright, who spent his first six seasons with Miami before joining the Warriors this year, added 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in Golden State’s season-worst sixth straight loss.
Chris Bosh added 16 points and seven rebounds in the Heat’s fifth consecutive win over Golden State, mired in a 1-11 stretch. The Warriors dropped their fifth straight at Oracle Arena after beginning the season 5-0 at home. They haven’t won on their own floor since Nov. 15 against Detroit.
"I’m not worried, because I think they are playing hard," first-year Golden State coach Keith Smart said. "I would be worried if this team didn’t want to work anymore, if they didn’t look like they were competing on the floor, then you would have some flags."
Golden State played without do-everything guard Stephen Curry, who could be sidelined for an extended period with a sprained right ankle that he re-aggravated in a 111-94 loss Wednesday at San Antonio. He will be re-evaluated in a couple of days once the swelling goes down.
James, booed regularly by the standing-room-only sellout crowd of 20,036, shot 10 for 18 and scored 15 of his points in the third quarter before sitting out the fourth. He took only 10 shots in the first half for 10 points, but dished out six assists.
Wade, averaging 34 points in his last six games against the Warriors, was 12 for 20 and converted 10 of 13 free throws to help extend the team’s longest winning streak since running off nine in a row from March 20-April 7 last season. The Heat earned a fourth straight road win two days after a decisive 111-98 victory at Northwest Division-leading Utah.
They wrap up this trip Saturday night at Sacramento.
"It’s good but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s still early in the season," Wade said. "Right now what’s good is that we’ve won seven straight playing good basketball. We have a tough game tomorrow, probably the toughest game on this road trip because it’s the last one and it’s on a back-to-back. We can’t have any letdowns."
Wade took an elbow to the head from Andris Biedrins 52 seconds into the game while defending Ellis on his first points of the night. Wade was down for about a minute before coming to the bench to be examined. He returned at the 8:14 mark.
Miami won for the sixth time in seven games at Oakland but didn’t look great in the first half, leading just 48-45 at the break. But the Heat opened the third quarter with an 18-3 run to take control.
"They were just getting the ball off the rim and getting fast-break points," Wright said.
Reggie Williams and David Lee each scored 13 points for Golden State, which shot 37.3 percent and went 8 for 24 from 3-point range.
The Warriors hadn’t dropped five in a row at home since a six-game skid from March 1-24, 2002.
Golden State’s most recent six-game slide occurred from March 2-11, and started with a 110-106 loss at Miami as Wade scored 35 points in the most recent matchup.
NOTES: Warriors top draft pick Ekpe Udoh made his season debut after missing five months following surgery on his injured left wrist. … Wright has double-doubles in four of his last five games. … The Heat are 4-4 vs. the Western Conference, now 2-3 on the road. … Wade was averaging 2.33 steals during the winning streak but didn’t get one Friday. … Wade did lead the team in rebounds for the sixth time in eight games and his team-best 10th game overall. … Miami is 12-2 when forcing 14 or more turnovers. The Warriors had 15. … Injured 49ers running back Frank Gore, Larry Baer – team president of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants – and super middleweight boxer Andre Ward were among those in attendance. Giants center fielder Andres Torres tossed T-shirts during a fourth-quarter timeout. … It was the second sellout of the season at Oracle Arena.