MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James watched from the bench in a stylish gray suit and, with the game deadlocked at halftime, he took off his necktie. Soon the tie on the scoreboard was gone, too. Stout defense plus Chris Bosh’s outside shooting and a boost from Miami’s reserves helped the Heat overcome the absence of their MVP on Sunday to beat the Chicago Bulls 93-79.
“We were missing a pretty big man,” Dwyane Wade said. “There’s nothing we can do to replace the best player in the world but we just had to go out there and play team basketball on both ends of the floor.”
James was a late scratch after he broke his nose in the Heat’s Feb. 20 win at Oklahoma City and his teammates picked up the slack. Former NBA No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden replaced James for his first NBA start since December 2009 and reserves Chris Andersen, Michael Beasley and Ray Allen helped the Heat pull away in the second half.
“You don’t want to see guys out but, when guys are out, I’m always curious to see how you respond as a team,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, who earned his 300th career victory with the win over the Bulls. “We’ve had several of these games that could have been excuse games but guys have stepped up.”
Miami, playing at home for the first time in 20 days, extended its winning streak to five games. Bosh tied a career high with four 3-pointers and had 28 points and 10 rebounds. Wade added 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Mario Chalmers contributed 12 points and nine assists.
Defense did the rest against the offensively challenged Bulls. “We’re starting to put it together defensively,” Bosh said. “We got off to a slow start early in the season but I think right now we’re starting to get it, starting to click.” Wade sealed the victory by sinking a jumper with less than three minutes left, giving the Heat their first 18-point lead. Earlier, two of his points came on free throws after he improvised a backward somersault when fouled hard in the lane.
Otherwise there weren’t a lot of acrobatics from the typically high-flying Heat, who shot 42 percent and had only seven fast-break points.
Contributing to the workmanlike effort was the 7-foot Oden, playing his 11th game after being sidelined by knee trouble for 3½ years. He had five points and five rebounds in 13 minutes.