Even just strides from Bourbon Street there was no hangover. Not when LeBron James is playing possessed. Not when Mike Miller is dunking. Not when the Miami Heat are shooting 61 percent from the field, 14 of 27 on 3-pointers. In the wake of Wednesday's loss to the Chicago Bulls, the winning streak is now one, with Friday's 108-89 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena. "We talked about not having an exhale, but rather an inhale the rest of the season," coach Erik Spoelstra said. Their 27-game winning streak snapped two nights earlier, the Heat bounced back on a night James played with a motivated hop in his step, scoring 28 of his 36 points in the first half. "It was a competitive response," Spoelstra said. "Our guys came out much more aggressive." With the victory, the Heat clinched the No. 1 overall playoff seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the Dwyane Wade-Shaquille O'Neal era in 2004-05. "It means that we've put on a good run," James said of settling the conference race so early. As for his Friday run, James was so hot early that at one point he pulled up on a 3-on-1 fastbreak and shot, and made, a 3-pointer. "I haven't done that since probably high school," he said, "or my early years in Cleveland." James opened by converting six 3-pointers in seven attempts in the first half. His 15-point first-quarter was his highest-scoring opening period of the season and his 28-point first half was his highest-scoring first half of the season. He sat out the entire fourth quarter. From the outset, it was clear a mere playoff seed wasn't fueling James. Instead, he spent the hours leading into the game marinating in the belittling of others regarding his postgame complaints Wednesday in Chicago about the unduly physical fouling he has endured this season. Those complaints were followed up by a harshly worded rebuke of Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge by Heat President Pat Riley issued shortly before Friday's opening tip.
Heat clinch East No. 1 seed behind LeBron's 36, down Hornets 108-89
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel | Mar 30