PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Before he took a seat on the bench, LeBron James made sure to grab one more rebound.
James had 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his 35th career triple-double and the Miami Heat cruised to their 10th straight win, 114-90 over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
The three-time NBA MVP knew he was one board away from a special night so he went after it hard early in the fourth quarter. After Chris Anderson blocked Evan Turner’s shot, James hauled it in, drove up court and banked a shot in for good measure.
“I was going to stay out there until I got it,” James said. “I wasn’t going to let this one slip away. I’ve had too many games where I was one assist, one rebound away. I wasn’t coming out.”
Dwyane Wade had 33 points, Mario Chalmers scored 14 and Chris Bosh added 13 to help the defending NBA champions improve to 39-14. The Heat have a comfortable 5½-game lead over Indiana in the Eastern Conference.
They’ve won four in a row on the road, including impressive wins over Oklahoma City before the All-Star break and Chicago on Thursday.
“It was a professional win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “LeBron started it with his unselfishness, finding the open guy, making it contagious. Then it was an efficient shooting night.”
Jrue Holiday scored 21 points and Nick Young had 19 for Philadelphia, which continues to fall further behind in the playoff chase. The Sixers entered 3½ games behind Milwaukee for the No. 8 spot in the East.
A rare sellout crowd turned out for the nightcap of an NHL/NBA doubleheader at the Wells Fargo Center to see James, Wade and Co. There were even scalpers outside the arena selling tickets before the game for one of the few big draws of the season.
Fans roared when Spencer Hawes rejected James’ shot late in the first quarter, swatting the ball back in his face.
Many of the same people jumped to their feet and cheered when James threw down a thunderous dunk off an alley-oop pass from Norris Cole late in the third quarter. By that time, the Heat were up 85-63 and the crowd was more interested in seeing James make a highlight play than rooting for the Sixers.
“He’s so big and strong and powerful. He decides when he wants to be a passer or a scorer,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said.
James got his first “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” after a no-look backdoor pass to Bosh for an easy layup in the first. Chalmers followed with a rainbow 3-pointer and a reverse lay-up to give the Heat a 24-22 lead and they never trailed again.
“I get more pleasure out of kicking the ball than scoring,” James said.
After registering his third triple-double of the season and seventh since joining the Heat, James got a mixture of cheers and boos when he went to the bench with 10:15 left.
Wade came in after a brief rest and continued his hot shooting, scoring six straight points on a driving layup, two free throws and a long jumper. He was 12 of 14 at that point before missing a 3-pointer.
“I think we’re better than last season because we understand each other a lot more,” Bosh said. “Everyone is coming together as a team and we feel comfortable with each other. I think we’re starting to play like we know we’re capable of playing. It’s shown in this win streak. Even with the break, we’ve continued to play well. I think if we keep playing at this type of level, the sky is the limit for us.”
While the Heat are gearing up to make a run at a repeat, the Sixers have lost four straight to fall a season-worst nine games below .500 at 22-31.
“In the first half, we did a lot of things well,” Holiday said. “We have to sustain that for 48 minutes.”
It’s been a disappointing year for Philadelphia, which knocked off top-seeded Chicago in the first round of the playoffs a year ago and then took Boston to seven games in the conference quarterfinals.
A season that began with promise after the acquisition of center Andrew Bynum quickly fell apart. Bynum has yet to play a game this season because of bone bruises in both knees. He said earlier in the week he plans to play at some point. At this rate, it won’t matter much for the Sixers.
“Holiday is a great player, but he needs help,” James said. “We all thought Bynum would be a huge piece for them.”
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