ORLANDO, Fla. - In the days leading up to Miami's third matchup of the season with Southeast Division-rival Orlando, LeBron James stressed the importance of Thursday's game, even with the season barely at its midpoint.
And James played like it, pouring in 51 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and making eight assists – including a 23-point first quarter – to lead Miami to a 104-100 victory.
It was a season high for James, whose scoring effort tied for the fifth-most points of his career. Dwyane Wade added 15 points, and Chris Bosh scored 13. The victory was the Heat’s fourth straight. The Magic lost for the fourth time in their last six and fell behind 2-1 in the season series with Miami.
“Just playing this team got me going,” said James, who hit his first 11 shots. “We understand that it wasn’t just any regular-season game. There were a lot of things said about us in the offseason that came from this organization. So we just wanted to come in here and play to our abilities and make a statement.”
Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 22 points. Dwight Howard had 17 points and 16 rebounds, but only one point after halftime and was 3 of 13 from the free-throw line.
The Heat got a scare in the third quarter.
Wade was driving to the basket with 9:43 remaining when he was fouled hard by Howard on a dunk attempt.
After a timeout, the Heat players went out to check on Wade, who eventually walked to the bench and remained in the game to shoot two free throws. He went to the locker room and returned with a heat pack on his back. He returned to start the fourth quarter.
Knicks $200,000 lighter: The NBA fined the New York Knicks $200,000 and team scout Rodney Heard $20,000 for conducting illegal draft workouts during 2007 and 2010. Heard, the Knicks’ director of East scouting, violated rules restricting contact before the NBA’s predraft camp in May between teams and players eligible for the draft. Yahoo! Sports reported in October that Heard coordinated and conducted the secret workouts in suburban Atlanta.
All-Star update: Rookie of the Year favorite Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers will be playing in his first All-Star game, and Kevin Garnett matched an NBA record with his 14th straight selection as one of a record-tying four Boston Celtics selected for the Feb. 20 event. Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will accompany Garnett, who equaled Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone for the most consecutive selections. The Celtics joined the 2006 Detroit Pistons as the only teams to have four players picked as reserves by the coaches.
Fastbreaks: Toronto’s Linas Kleiza could miss up to a year after having microfracture surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right knee. Miami’s Dwyane Wade left the game Thursday after a hard foul by Orlando’s Dwight Howard.