With only two-thirds of their Big Three, the Miami Heat are still undefeated.
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LeBron James and Chris Bosh combined for 45 points Friday night and treated a sold-out Kansas City crowd to a taste of the NBA with a 103-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Dwyane Wade, the third member of the newly formed trio that’s set the NBA abuzz, sat out with a sore right hamstring that he hurt in the opening minutes of the first exhibition outing. But once they get all their weapons together, just how potent will the Heat (2-0) be?
James wouldn’t speculate.
"We’re playing good basketball for what we have now," said the two-time league MVP, who totaled 22 points. "When we get 100 percent healthy, we’ll be able to see."
With Bosh and James leading the way, the Heat took control in the third quarter before an energetic crowd filled with local celebrities.
Bosh had 23 points, including nine of his team’s first 12 in the third quarter as the Heat quickly turned a 55-52 halftime lead into a 67-56 advantage. James, who had 22 points in 29 minutes, took a nifty pass from Patrick Beverley a few minutes later, and pulled up and drilled a 3-pointer for a 76-62 lead
The Heat outscored Oklahoma City 32-19 in the third quarter.
"Right now we’re focused on who we have," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "It won’t be tough for Dwyane to catch up. "We had great energy, but not right away. It took us a while to get into rhythm and get a good balance."
In the final minutes, with most of the stars watching from the bench, Eric Maynor had 11 points in a 16-2 run by the Thunder that trimmed a 19-point Miami lead to 101-96.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, chosen by NBA general managers in a poll this week as the most likely to be this season’s MVP, had 21 points, going 10 for 10 from the line. Russell Westbrook added 18.
Durant and James, who are close friends, did not have many 1-on-1 encounters. But Durant did manage to knock the ball out of James’ hands on a fast break late in the first half. The ball bounced to another Heat player without a turnover.
"I love the competition. It was fun," Durant said of James.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks joked, "I think they’re better without Wade."
Mike Miller had 15 points for the Heat and Udonis Haslem added 17.
James, who came to the Heat in July from the Cleveland Cavaliers and has lifted NBA interest in South Florida to a new high, brought a roar from the crowd when he took the ball on a breakaway and threw down a powerful dunk for a 78-64 lead.
A moment later, the 6-foot-8 superstar soared for a defensive rebound, drew a foul and canned a pair of free throws. The lead went to 87-71 when James pulled up in front of the 3-point line and caught nothing but net.
Miami trailed most of the first half and did not have its first lead until 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas came off the bench and drilled a 3-pointer to put the Heat on top 35-33.
After taking a rest in the second quarter, James returned to the court with Miami trailing 40-38. He muscled underneath for a bucket, hit a pair of free throws and, following Bosh’s defensive rebound, connected again during a 13-3 run to take a 51-43 lead.
Bosh said the Heat are still installing their offense.
"We’re just playing out of movement. I think that’s the best basketball to play. We’re going to have set plays. But most of the time we’re just going to be out there reading each other."
This was a major event for Kansas City, which has yearned for an NBA or NHL franchise as an anchor tenant since Sprint Center opened in 2007.
Local celebrities ringing the court included Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Todd Haley, coach of the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs, and Kansas basketball coach Bill Self. Self drew a big laugh when he was caught in the first quarter on the "kiss cam." Realizing he was on the big TV screen above the floor, he obligingly leaned over and gave Cindy Self a big kiss.