PHOENIX, United States // LeBron James almost never has two bad games in a row.
So after matching his season low with 13 points in Miami’s’ loss at Utah last Saturday, the four-time MVP was back to being LeBron again in Phoenix.
James scored 37 points and, as usual, was the critical component of the big plays down the stretch in the Heat’s 103-97 victory over the Suns on Tuesday night.
He also had five steals, and his prettiest play might have been a laser pass to Chris Bosh for a three-pointer that pretty much sealed the victory with 40.3 seconds to go.
It was James’ highest-scoring game since December 28 and just two points off his season high.
“It was good to see us respond,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And this response started yesterday in practice. There wasn’t any dancing around it, we were flat and we didn’t bring a game necessary to win on the road against Utah.”
They brought that energy, and a healthy respect, to the Suns, though.
“That team is a really good team,” James said. “They are the surprise team of our league this year.”
Bosh added 21 points and Mario Chalmers 13 for the Heat, who were without Dwyane Wade because of a migraine.
Gerald Green scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half for Phoenix. Goran Dragic and Channing Frye had 15 apiece.
The Suns lost to Miami for the eighth time in a row.
“They make plays at the end of games,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They have done it for the last two years, two and a half years, now.”
The Heat converted 16 Suns turnovers into 24 points.
Of his five steals, James said it was something he’s been doing for years.
“Just being able to anticipate plays, seeing the pass before it happens or shoot the gap like that,” James said. “I have been doing it throughout my career.”
Dragic, the Suns’ catalyst, was frustrated by a defence that sent various players at him, forcing him to get rid of the ball earlier than he wanted and keeping him from his trademark penetration. He wound up 4-of-12 shooting.
Miami used an 11-0 run, capped by a roundhouse breakaway dunk by James, to go up 62-55 with 6:40 left in the third quarter. But Green scored all of Phoenix’s points in an 8-1 spurt, including two threes, and it was tied at 63-63 with 4:42 left in the period.
Tucker’s behind-the-back pass to Markieff Morris for a dunk just before the buzzer put the Suns up 74-71 entering the fourth.
Miami took the lead for good on Norris Cole’s three-pointer that made it 83-80 with 7:21 to play.
OTHER TUESDAY RESULTS
Bulls 100, Hawks 85
Taj Gibson scored 24 points and centre Joakim Noah collected his fourth career triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Gibson continued to shine while starting in place of injured forward Carlos Boozer. Gibson hit 12-of-19 shots from the field, adding 12 rebounds and five assists.
Noah piled up 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists for Chicago (26-25).
Atlanta (25-25) lost their season-high fourth in a row and dropped a half-game behind the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings.
Bobcats 114, Mavericks 89
Al Jefferson scored 30 points and forward Anthony Tolliver came off the bench to score 22 as the Charlotte Bobcats cooled off the streaking Dallas Mavericks.
The Bobcats went on extended runs to open both the second and third quarters, going on a 10-0 spurt to open the second quarter and then a 13-1 run in the third. They led by as many as 27.
The Mavericks came to Charlotte riding a five-game winning streak.
Dirk Nowitzki shrugged off a sprained left ankle that sidelined him much of the second quarter to lead the Mavericks with 16 points. Guard Monta Ellis also scored 16.
Cavaliers 109, Kings 99
Anthony Bennett recorded his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Bennett, the top overall pick in the 2013 draft, recorded career highs in both points and rebounds.
It was the third consecutive win for the Cavs (19-33), who had five players in double figures.
Centre DeMarcus Cousins paced the Kings (17-35) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Point guard Isaiah Thomas added 16 points and eight assists for the Kings, who have the worst record in the Western Conference.
Grizzlies 92, Wizards 89
The Memphis Grizzlies held off Washington for a victory despite a late scoring drought and a career-high 37 points from Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
Memphis went without a field goal for a 6 1/2-minute stretch of the fourth quarter, and lost an earlier 16-point lead but rallied late and saw Washington’s John Wall miss a potential tying shot at the final buzzer.
Nick Calathes and centre Marc Gasol each scored 18 points for Memphis (28-23).
Washington (25-26) got 17 points from forward Nene.
Thunder 98, Trail Blazers 95
Kevin Durant scored 36 points on 15-of-28 shooting and added 10 rebounds as Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City (42-12) added some distance between them and third-placed Portland (36-16).
Jeremy Lamb added 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting off the bench for the Thunder, and point guard Reggie Jackson filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and only one turnover.
Centre Robin Lopez’s 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 14 rebounds and Frenchman Nicolas Batum’s 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting helped the Blazers stay in it on a night where usual leaders LaMarcus Alridge (5-of-22), Damian Lillard (5-of-15) and Wesley Matthews (2-of-10) shot 25.5 per cent (12-for-47) combined.
Jazz 96, Lakers 79
Utah (18-33) blew out fellow West cellar-dweller Los Angeles (18-34) on the road as the Lakers went without Pau Gasol, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks in addition to the already-missing Kobe Bryant.
Alec Burks scored 24 off the bench for the Jazz, Gordon Hayward had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and Derrick Favors notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Chris Kaman led Los Angeles, scoring 25 and pulling down 14 rebounds, even adding four assists and there blocks.
Steve Nash played just 17 minutes and left the game early as he deals with lingering injury issues. He had two points and two assists.