CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — LeBron James had 30 points and 10 rebounds, and the Miami Heat defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 98-85 Saturday night to take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference first round series.
Dwyane Wade added 17 points for the Heat, who can close out the best-of-seven Monday night.
James, who was an efficient 10 of 18 from the field, pushed his record to 18-0 against the Bobcats since joining the Heat in 2010. Miami has won 19 straight overall against Charlotte.
Al Jefferson had 20 points for the Bobcats, who are still searching for the first postseason win in franchise history.
After trailing most of the first half, the Heat took a 42-40 lead on a 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers. Miami closed the half on a 16-4 run.
Norris Cole hit a 5-foot bank shot and then buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Heat up by five and Miami was off to the races.
The Heat made 8 of their first 11 3-point attempts.
The half, which had started with so much energy and promise for the Bobcats, ended with a colossal mistake by guard Gerald Henderson. With the clock winding down, he turned the ball over in the backcourt with 2 seconds left and then fouled James while the Miami forward was attempting a 3-pointer. James made the Bobcats pay by sinking three free throws with 0.2 left on the clock to give the Heat a 58-46 advantage at the break.
The second half was all Miami.
James, who was booed loudly almost every time he touched the ball, hit a key 3-pointer and had a breakaway dunk in the third quarter to help push the lead to 26 midway through the third and the Bobcats never mounted a series challenge after that point.
James has never lost a first-round series with his teams in Cleveland and Miami going a combined 8-0.
There was some intrigue entering the game.
James was outspoken on Friday after taking an elbow to the throat from Josh McRoberts in Game 2, although no flagrant foul was called on the floor.
The two made contact early in the first quarter when James drove baseline and McRoberts attempted to take a charge, but officials called a blocking foul. James made the shot but missed the ensuing free throw. McRoberts walked away after the foul clapping his hands, refusing to get upset by a call that could have easily gone the other way.
The Bobcats got a big boost early from Jefferson, who scored 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting to help build a 27-23 lead.
Jefferson, who has been hobbled by a strained plantar fascia since the first quarter of Game 1, seemed to have some of his mobility back Saturday night. At one point he scored on a spin move in the low post, surprising Chris Andersen.
Jefferson even got to the foul line for the first time in the series.
By the middle of the second quarter, Bobcats fans, wearing all white, began chanting “M-V-P M-V-P” as Jefferson shot free throws. But Charlotte’s enthusiasm was short-lived as James and the Heat began flexing their muscles.
NOTES: The soldout crowd of 19,633 was the largest ever to see a Bobcats game at Time Warner Cable Arena. … Bobcats owner Michael Jordan took in the game from the end of the bench. … James has scored at least 20 points in all three playoff games … The Heat are 19-7 in the playoffs over the past two seasons
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