The world’s best came out to see if Miami could do it again. Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked men’s tennis player. Wladimir Klitschko, the world heavyweight boxing king. Rory McIlroy, who sits atop the golf rankings for at least one more night.
And they got quite a show.
The Heat won its 26th straight game on Sunday, with LeBron James going for 32 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in a 109-77 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
“I think it’s very humbling that you can have some of the greats from other sports come to see your team play, come to see you play,” said James, who was 11 for 14 from the field in another surgical performance. “You try to leave an impression on them, as a team and as an individual, absolutely. So it was great to have them in the building, for sure.”
Chris Bosh and Norris Cole had 15 points apiece for the Heat, which played without Dwyane Wade, held from the lineup because of right knee soreness that the team believes is minor. And after yet another slow start, Miami is seven victories shy of matching the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers for the league record of 33 in a row.
The show goes on the road for a four-game trip that begins in Orlando on Monday, a swing that also will take the Heat to Chicago, New Orleans and San Antonio. And the Heat will start that trip 2 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio in the race for the NBA’s best record.
Charlotte led by 11 in the early going and was within five in the third quarter, but two huge spurts by the Heat was more than enough to put the game away. Miami used a 31-6 run in the first half to erase the deficit, and a 26-5 blitz in the second half finished the job.
“It was a good professional win and obviously we had a lot of guys step up, guys that hadn’t been getting regular minutes,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s good to see, because we will need it.”
Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 20 points, and Gerald Henderson had 18. Charlotte finished 5 for 25 from 3-point range, while the Heat was 13 for 30 beyond the arc.
“We ran into some dry spells and we settled for way too many 3s,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “At the end of the game we had 25, and that’s not who we are.”
Charlotte hit eight of its first 14 shots, grabbed a 19-8 lead and had Spoelstra calling a quick timeout.
Miami closed the first quarter on a 15-0 run. By the time the Heat burst was over, an 11-point deficit turned into a 39-25 lead – making it a 31-6 swing for Miami, which forced the Bobcats into missing 20 of 22 shots during that stretch.