/

James sets tone in lopsided victory over Thunder

AP

LeBron James sat silently in front of his locker with a towel draped over his head, not wanting to reveal the effects of a hit to his nose that prematurely ended his night.

His Miami Heat teammates finished off a 103-81 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder without him on Thursday night.

Miami’s star forward went down with 5:50 remaining after he was struck by Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka on a drive to the basket. James finished the dunk, but he was bloodied and he left the court with a towel over his face.

“I’m like everybody else, you’re used to seeing him like Superman, get up and sprint back even after tough hits and tough falls,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So we knew something was up.”

Miami’s star forward had landed the hardest blow long before that. He scored 16 of his 33 points in the first quarter to put the Thunder in a bind, and the Heat rolled to a lopsided win.

James passed a concussion test, but some damage was done.

“He has a swollen nose right now. It’s bleeding,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll evaluate him when we get back to Miami, but it’s sore.”

The Thunder were the ones shaken up after James made his first five shots and scored 12 points in the first 4:11.

“It was flawless,” Dwyane Wade said. “He was aggressive defensively, he was able to play passing lanes and be who he is. . . . It was something that we needed.”

Wade had 24 points and 10 assists, and Chris Bosh added 24 points for Miami, which won its fourth straight and avenged an earlier loss to Oklahoma City. It was a good step for the Heat, who are trying to catch Indiana for the top record in the Eastern Conference.

“You can see the resolve,” Wade said. “You can see the chemistry. You can see a team that’s gearing up for the second half of the season.”

Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Oklahoma City, which lost at home for the first time since Jan. 5.

Durant has been the popular favorite to win the NBA MVP award, but Wade said James is still in the hunt.

“It’s not decided,” Wade said. “I don’t think that was a message. That was LeBron James being LeBron James. He loves the matchup, just like KD loves the matchup. The MVP is long, long from over.”

Russell Westbrook, who had missed the previous 27 games after having surgery on his right knee, started and scored 16 points in 24 minutes. He made 4 of 12 shots.

“I’m just going to keep getting him better, and as the season goes along, as he gets more comfortable in game shape, we’re going to see a better Russell every night,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

The crowd erupted as Westbrook was introduced as a starter. His first minute of action was furious and had the fans on their feet. His first basket was a two-handed, fast-break dunk 37 seconds into the game, and he got a steal 17 seconds later.

The excitement quickly evaporated. James scored 10 points in the first 3:11 and Miami made 13 of its first 14 shots to take a 28-13 lead. The Heat were ahead 34-17 at the end of the first quarter.

Warriors 102, Rockets 99 (OT)

In Oakland, Stephen Curry made a tying layup with 3.2 seconds left in regulation and finished with 25 points, and Golden State outlasted the Rockets in overtime to halt Houston’s eight-game winning streak.

Rockets star James Harden scored 34 of his 39 points in the second half.

Nuggets 101, Bucks 90

In Milwaukee, Kenneth Faried continued his recent hot streak, scoring 26 points to carry Denver past the Bucks.

The Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler scored 15 points and J.J. Hickson added 14 points and 10 rebounds in a matchup of two teams left short-handed by deals they made before Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline.