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LeBron James leads Heat in bounce-back win over Hornets


LeBron James made seven 3-pointers to help the Miami Heat end one-game skid and clinch No. 1 seed in EastLeBron James made seven 3-pointers to help the Miami Heat end one-game skid and clinch No. 1 seed in East

With a sellout crowd on hand, the New Orleans Hornets were eagerly awaiting the reigning world champion Miami Heat, looking to measure themselves against the best and make a statement, hoping for a good Friday on Good Friday. The only thing good for the Hornets is that Friday is over. The statement was made by a made by a mad Miami team coming off of a rare loss.

Miami dominated from start to finish en route to a 108-89 rout of the Hornets before a season high 18,647 fans at New Orleans Arena Friday night in a game that was never close.

The league's best player was at his very best. The earthly, NBA King brought his crown.

LeBron James, who is a virtual lock to earn his fourth Most Valuable Player honors at season's end, pumped in 36 points, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range, putting on a show for a wowed crowd that was very loud--for the visitors.

It was sloppy first quarter with the two teams combining for 12 turnovers, including seven by New Orleans, but the Heat got hot, specifically the league's hottest player.

James exploded for 15 points, including 5-of-6 field goals and 3-for-3 from 3-point range and 1-for-2 from the free throw line. Miami shot 11-for-15 from the field in the quarter for 73 percent. Darius Miller played well for the Hornets with five points off the bench in just four minutes as Miami led 32-22 by the end of the quarter.

James continued his assault in the second quarter.

He hit his first three 3-pointers in the period, drawing a huge reaction from the crowd, which at times seemed to be a partisan Miami audience. James finally missed a triple. He finished the first half with 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting with three rebounds and three assists. Dwayde Wade had 10 points and five assists as Miami led 60-43 at halftime. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson each had nine points in the half for New Orleans. Miami shot 70 percent in the first half, going 23-of-33 from the field. The Hornets had 10 turnovers in the half.

While the Heat cooled off a bit in the third quarter, Miami maintained its lead, expanding it to 81-60. James scored eight more in the quarter, including another 3-pointer. He watched pretty much the rest of the way, finishing with 36 points in just 32 minutes. Wade had 17 points and nine assists. Miami hit 14-of-27 from 3-point range (52%) and shot 60 percent from the field. The Heat simply coasted to the finish line in the second half. It was never close.

New Orleans committed 19 turnovers, resulting in 18 points for the Heat. Anderson was a bright spot, as he has been much of the season, scoring 20 points off the bench. Gordon had 17 points, including a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Anthony Davis finished with 11 points.

After trying to play with a sprained ankle Wednesday against the Clippers and struggling mightily, Greivis Vasquez did not play against the Heat. While the Hornets could have used him, it would not have made any difference in the eventual outcome.

Starting in place of Vasquez, Brian Roberts, who had 18 assists in a win over the Nuggets this past Monday, finished with 13 points and five assists.

Hornets head coach Monty Williams was philosophical about being whipped by the world champions.

"That happens in the NBA," Williams said. "I told our guys, sooner or later, it's going to come back to us. It did but it didn't. We just didn't score the ball tonight. You have to give them credit. They fed off of the energy of those makes by LeBron. Their defense was very good tonight, especially on our pick-and-roll sets. A lot of our guys that normally knock down shots did not do so tonight but a lot of credit goes to them. They are a very good team. He (LeBron) just hit some tough shots. I'm more concerned that we didn't defend the way we can tonight."

The Hornets fell 2-32 when opponents score 100 or more points. The Hornets could not defend the Heat and simply cannot score enough to win higher scoring games.

Miami moved to 57-15, the league's best record, with the win while New Orleans fell to 25-48 with the loss. The Hornets will host Cleveland Easter Sunday at 5 p.m.

The Hornets were unfortunate to catch the Heat after their near record 27-game win streak ended in Chicago Wednesday night. Miami took out its frustration on a badly outclassed New Orleans squad. The measuring stick is quite long.

"Nights like tonight add to the growth experience, we're moving in the right direction for a young team," Williams said.