James nets 41, Heat clinch playoff spot
MANILA, Philippines – With All-Star guard Dwyane Wade out due to a knee injury, LeBron James stepped up in a big way and led the Miami Heat to a 99-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, clinching a playoff spot in the process.
James broke out a mini-scoring slump and netted a season-best 41 points, 15 of them coming in the pivotal fourth quarter. He added six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
|Miami Heat forward LeBron James scores under pressure from Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young (L) and Elton Brand in the first quarter during their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida, April 3, 2012. Photo by Joe Skipper, Reuters.
"In the second half, LeBron obviously stepped up and shouldered the scoring load for us, particularly when we were struggling at the end of the clock and end of possessions," Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra told NBA.com.
"He made plays that MVP players make," Spoelstra added.
The win broke a two-game losing streak for the Heat and allowed them to become the third team this season to book a spot in the playoffs, following the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder. At 38-14, they are currently 2.5 games behind the Bulls for the top spot in the East.
The Sixers were able to make it a close game early in the fourth quarter, with a Spencer Hawes jumper bringing Philly to within four points, 81-85.
But James scored Miami's next 10 points, including back-to-back jumpers and an alley-oop dunk to put the game out of reach.
"Turnovers were really the killer for us. We had 17. On the year, when we get up over 14 a game, we don't usually win," said Philadelphia coach Doug Collins.
Chris Bosh had 17 points while Mario Chalmers added 19 points for the Heat. Evan Turner led the Sixers in scoring with 26 points on top of eight rebounds.
But big man Elton Brand was ineffective, scoring only eight points. Point guard Jrue Holiday also struggled with eight points, six assists and six turnovers.
The Sixers dropped to a 29-24 record, 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the lead in the Atlantic Division. They are currently at the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons took advantage of the absence of All-NBA center Dwight Howard to upset the Orlando Magic, 102-95.
Greg Monroe led the way for Detroit with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Ben Gordon had a solid all-around performance of 18 points, seven assists and six boards.
"We struggled early with a lot of things, but we’re now playing a lot better," said Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince.
Glen Davis scored a career-high 31 points as he started in Howard's place, but the Magic still dropped their fourth straight game.
Orlando was also missing key players Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson.
Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies won their third straight game by outlasting the Golden State Warriors, 98-94.
Six Grizzlies scored in double figures, led by OJ Mayo’s 19 points and Mike Conley's 18 points.