Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) looks to pass as Charlotte Bobcats guard Chris Douglas-Roberts (55) applies pressure during the first half in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Photo by Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
MIAMI - (UPDATE 3) LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 50 points on Sunday to lead two-time defending NBA champions Miami to a 99-88 victory over Charlotte in their post-season opener.
James made four of the Heat's 11 three-pointers and finished with 27 points and nine rebounds as the Heat seized the advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
Wade added 23 points and five assists for the Heat, who are trying to become the first club to win three straight NBA titles since the Los Angeles Lakers did it 2000, 2001 and 2002.
While the Heat are in familiar territory, the Washington Wizards were playing their first playoff game since 2008 on Sunday in Chicago -- where they came away with a 102-93 game-one win over the Bulls.
Washington's Brazilian big man Nene scored 24 points for the Wizards, who out-played the Bulls down the stretch.
Trevor Ariza had 18 points and John Wall added 16 for the Wizards, who out-scored the bulls 30-18 in the fourth quarter.
After the Wizards got off to a fast start, the Bulls rallied to lead by six at halftime.
Chicago scored 10 of the first 13 points of the third to take a 13-point lead, but Washington had trimmed the deficit to three points going into the final period.
Chicago's Joakim Noah, a front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year honors, struggled to contain Nene.
"He played very well, hit some shots, was very physical," Noah said.
Noah added that he thought the Bulls "got careless" with their 13-point lead in the third.
"We had bad turnovers, and they got easy scores," he said. "We're not happy with the result. That's disappointing in front of a home crowd. But we'll bounce back."
In Miami, the star-studded Heat endured some rough patches, perhaps not unexpected after they finished out the regular-season with three straight defeats and conceded the top seed in the East to Indiana.
Part of the reason was coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to rest James and Chris Bosh for the last two games, and Wade missed time late in the season as well.
"It felt like we hadn't played in two weeks," James said. "For me, it was a week. It felt like we hadn't been out there for a long time. We didn't have any rhythm at the start."
- 'A pretty good game' -
Nevertheless, he and Wade connected on 18 of their 32 attempts from the field, and Wade was confident the Heat would improve when they host Wednesday's game two.
"Besides starting off slow in the first and third quarters," Wade said, "I thought we played a pretty good game.
"Now we're going to go look at adjustments we can make and figure out how we can be better in game two," he added.
The Bobcats opened the third quarter with 10 straight points and led with seven minutes left in the quarter.
James's buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the third sent the Heat into the final period with a 72-65 lead, and they pulled away from there.
James Jones contributed 12 points off the bench and fellow reserve Chris Andersen scored eight rebounds and pulled down 10 rebounds while also effectively guarding Charlotte's most potent offensive threat, Al Jefferson.
Jefferson started strong but was hobbled after suffering a strain to his left plantar fascia in the first quarter.
He still played more than 35 minutes, scoring 18 points with one rebound. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said Jefferson exacerbated an existing injury, and needed a pain-killing injection.
"It's going to be a problem," Clifford said.
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