|Miami Heat's LeBron James (C) is defended by Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant (L) and Serge Ibaka (R) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida, December 25, 2012. Photo by Rhona Wise, Reuters.
MIAMI - LeBron James scored 29 points, passed out nine assists and grabbed eight rebounds on Tuesday to spark the Miami Heat over the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97 in a rematch of last June's NBA Finals.
The reigning NBA champion Heat won their fifth game in a row and improved to 19-6, the best record in the Eastern Conference, while the Thunder lost for the second game in a row after a 12-game win streak, falling to 21-6.
"It's two teams that have the same aspiration -- to win a championship," James said. "Nobody is going to shortcourt anything. It's always a tough game."
The Heat led 96-92 and kept the Thunder silent from the field for more than four minutes but Kevin Durant sank a free throw and followed with a slam dunk with 44 seconds remaining to pull Oklahoma City within 96-95.
James, who made 12 of his 20 shots from the field, found Chris Bosh unguarded under the net with a pass for an easy slam dunk to boost Miami's lead. But Durant answered with a jumper to keep the Thunder close.
Ray Allen hit two free throws to move Miami ahead 100-97. Russell Westbrook missed a three-pointer for the Thunder and the Heat answered with a free throw from Allen and two more by Bosh to create the final margin.
Durant scored a game-high 33 points, 14 of them in the fourth quarter, to lead Oklahoma City while Westbrook added 21 points and 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka scored 15 points.
Dwyane Wade scored 21 points for the Heat, while Mario Chalmers added 20 points for Miami.
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