There are pockets in an NBA schedule that challenge a contending team’s ability to maintain focus.
The Heat is learning to deal with such situations.
Wednesday night’s visit to Charlotte, N.C., could have easily been a trap for a Heat team coming off the emotional high of beating Oklahoma City in a Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James made sure the surging Heat stayed on track.
The Heat’s stars helped deliver a 105-92 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Heat (20-6) won its sixth consecutive game and dealt the Bobcats (7-21) their 16th consecutive loss.
“We came out with the right mind-set, but we were a little more inconsistent in the second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We found a way and against a team that continues to crawl and scratch despite the tough run they’ve had.”
Wade finished with a game-high 29 points on another sharp shooting performance (10 of 19 field goals) to go along with nine rebounds and five assists.
James finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists as he extended his streak of scoring at least 20 points in a game to start the season to 26. James’ personal franchise-record streak — dating to last season — is now 31. Including the playoffs, he has scored at least 20 points in 47 consecutive games.
“We know it takes 48 minutes to win an NBA game and that teams will make runs,” James said.
The Heat swept back-to-back games for the first time this season in its fourth such set of games. After a day off Thursday, Miami will play another back-to-back set against Detroit and Milwaukee.
The Heat — on a four-game, six-day road trip — improved to 6-4 on the road this season.
Miami won without guard Ray Allen, who was inactive for the first time this season after sustaining a right shoulder injury.
Without Allen, Miami used James Jones in more rotations. Jones played more than 17 minutes — surpassing his previous season-high of seven minutes — and finished with five points and four rebounds.
“We have guys that always stay ready,” James said. “J.J. is a prime example of that. He can go four weeks without playing and he can come in and play like he did the last time he was in there.”
Although the Heat struggled early in the second half, its defense managed to hold another opponent under 100 points for the ninth consecutive game. The Heat never trailed and led by as many as 19 points in the first half as its defense forced 11 of Charlotte’s 17 turnovers in that half.
Kemba Walker (27 points) and Ramon Sessions (19 points) helped the Bobcats get as close as two points with 7:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. Gerald Henderson picked up a rebound and banked in a shot while drawing a foul on Chris Bosh.
“It wasn’t hard to keep focus at the beginning, but making sure we kept moving the ball and kept our defense up kind of lacked in the second half,” Bosh said. “But we got out of here with a win and we knew it would be a dangerous game for us, but we expect that.”
James hit a three-pointer with 6:25 left to push the lead back to five. Wade’s jumper moments later made it a 92-85 lead.
James then found Shane Battier open for a three that put the Heat ahead by 10 with exactly four minutes left and effectively ended the potential comeback. James hit a three to put Miami ahead by 11 a couple of possessions later.
The Heat made 12 of 23 shots from three-point range, giving it at least 10 three-pointers made in four of its past five games. The Heat has made at least eight in every game during that span.
Mario Chalmers, who went 4 of 6 from three-point range, sparked the Heat to a 9-0 lead to open the game. Chalmers was a vital contributor for the second consecutive game. He followed up his 20-point performance against the Thunder with 17 points and four assists.
Battier also went 3 of 5 from three-point range.
Bosh persevered despite still recovering from an injury to his right eye sustained when Russell Westbrook scratched it while jumping for a rebound on Tuesday. Bosh shot 6 of 12 to finish with 14 points.
“We think our versatility and our depth is one of our best strengths,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why we don’t take guys like [Jones] for granted. He can come in and give us solid minutes and hasn’t played consistently for a while. But he keeps his mind right and is always involved. Not a lot of guys have that maturity or professionalism.”