James eclipses 20K points, Heat top Warriors 92-75
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points and also surpassed 5,000 assists on a milestone night Wednesday, leading the Miami Heat to a 92-75 victory over the undermanned Golden State Warriors.
On a road trip that has had more bad news than good, James rewrote the headlines and the record books. He finished with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
James eclipsed both marks before halftime, helped Miami go ahead by 34 points in the third quarter and allowed coach Erik Spoelstra to rest his starters – without debate – for the fourth. Dwyane Wade added 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Mario Chalmers scored 15 for the Heat, who had lost three of their last four away from home.
David Lee had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Jarrett Jack scored 16 in place of Stephen Curry, who sprained his twice surgically repaired right ankle during Golden State’s morning practice. The team said X-rays were negative, and Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he doesn’t expect Curry to be out long.
The Warriors, who upset the Heat 97-95 in Miami on Dec. 12, lost consecutive games for only the third time this season. With center Andrew Bogut already out indefinitely recovering from left ankle surgery, Curry’s absence turned out to be too much to overcome against the defending NBA champions.
James and Wade just overwhelmed the Warriors from the start.
Wade lobbed an alley-oop from halfcourt that James finished with two hands early in the first quarter. James hit Wade slicing down the lane for a dunk moments later for his 5,000th career assist, and James made a 3-pointer after falling hard on his right elbow a play earlier to give the Heat a 23-14 lead.
James, who made 11 of 20 shots from the floor, surpassed the scoring mark when he dribbled from the wing and pulled up in the lane to make an off-balance jumper with 2:45 remaining in the second quarter to give him 20,001 career points. He needed 18 points entering the game to be the 38th NBA player to reach the milestone.
Previously the youngest player to score 20,000 points was Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who got there when he was 29 years, 122 days old. James was 28 years, 17 days on Wednesday.
James already was the youngest player in league history to win Rookie of the Year, record a triple-double, score 1,000 points, score 10,000 points and win MVP honors at an All-Star game. Only Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain (29 years, 134 days) and Michael Jordan (29 years, 326 days) reached the latest milestone before turning 30.
James also is the 13th player with 20,000 points and 5,000 assists. The only active players to reach both marks are Bryant and Boston’s Kevin Garnett.
With the long-awaited record out of the way, James and Wade switched roles and opened the second half almost the same way the duo began the first.
Picking apart Golden State’s stagnant defense, Wade tossed an alley-oop just inside halfcourt to James while two Warriors defenders watched the three-time NBA MVP soar for the slam, part of a scintillating 26-6 surge filled with highlights to open the third quarter and put the Heat ahead 78-44.
In a 104-97 loss at Utah on Monday, Spoelstra sat Wade and played Chris Bosh for just 40 seconds in the fourth quarter in a decision that had been critiqued and questioned for the past two days by fans and national media. The Heat sliced a 19-point deficit to two without both before falling short.
This time, the Big Three watched the final 12 minutes smiling from the bench.
NOTES: In terms of games played, James is the seventh-fastest to join the 20,000 club. Wednesday was his 726th regular-season game. Chamberlain needed only 499 games to score 20,000 points. … The Warriors fell to 13-3 against the Eastern Conference this season. The two other losses came against Orlando. … Heat backup F Shane Battier returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury. He had two rebounds and finished 0 for 3 from the floor, all from 3-point range, in 10 minutes. … San Francisco 49ers players Donte Whitner, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Dashon Goldson received an ovation when they were shown on the video screen in the first half.