OKLAHOMA CITY, February 21 – LeBron James scored a game-high 33 points despite having his nose bloodied and being knocked to the floor in the fourth quarter of Miami’s 103-81 victory Thursday at Oklahoma City.
The two-time defending champion Heat avenged a 112-95 loss to the Thunder last month in Miami, trailing only 66 seconds in the entire game but still having cause for worry when James went down.
James, who made 15-of-22 shots from the floor in 33 minutes, dribbled up the middle past a defensive double team midway into the fourth quarter when he was struck by Spanish big man Serge Ibaka of the Thunder.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James kept going, slamming the ball into the hoop before sprawling on the floor beneath the basket.
Laying dazed for most of the next minute, blood was visible on the court and when James rolled over it became clear his nose had been bloodied. He was helped up and went to the locker room holding a towel on his nose with the Heat ahead 90-74.
“He got hit pretty good,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
James passed a concussion test and a doctor examined James’ nose and found it was not broken.
The doctor said X-rays were not needed but James will likely be examined again Friday when the Heat return to Miami ahead of a Sunday game against Chicago.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each scored 24 points, Wade adding 10 assists and Bosh contributing eight rebounds.
James added seven rebounds and four steals, sparking Miami to an early lead with solid offensive and defensive efforts.
“LeBron set the tone with his game,” Bosh said.
James dismissed the idea that NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant of the Thunder was going to be a runaway winner of this year’s MVP award.
“It was flawless,” Wade said. “He was aggressive. Defensively he was able to be in the passing lanes. He played a great game and that’s what we needed from our leader.”
The Heat improved to 39-14, 1.5 games behind Indiana for the best record in the Eastern Conference and 2.5 games behind Oklahoma City (43-13) for the best record in the NBA.
Durant led the Thunder with 28 points while Russell Westbrook, back in the Oklahoma City lineup after missing 27 games following knee surgery, added 16 points and sent a message early with two steals in the opening minute.
Miami’s accuracy rate of 76.2 percent in first-quarter shooting helped push the Heat to a 34-17 lead, aided by seven Thunder turnovers.
“I was too careless with the basketball,” Durant said. “I have to be better.”
James sparked a 10-0 Heat run early in the third period and the lead grew to 22 points. Durant scored nine points during a 12-1 Thunder run to pull the hosts within 76-65 but Miami led comfortably to the finish.
The Heat finished a road trip 5-1 with a fourth win in a row, snapping the Thunder’s three-game win streak.