CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – LeBron James heard the cheers from the crowd as he lay on the court holding his right thigh and writhing in pain.
It only seemed to awaken the four-time league MVP.
James scored 19 of his game-high 31 points after sustaining a thigh bruise early in the third quarter, helping the Miami Heat earn a first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats with a 109-98 victory Monday night. He finished Game 4 10 of 19 from the field and had nine assists.
“It’s definitely sore,” James said. “I’m fortunate we were able to close out tonight and I can give it a little rest.”
He should have plenty of time.
The two-time defending NBA champions will await the winner of Brooklyn-Toronto series, which is tied 2-2. If that series goes the distance it won’t wrap up until Sunday.
James said playing Charlotte was a good first test and Miami is headed in the right direction as it looks to win its third straight NBA championship.
“We got tested by a young, scrappy Bobcats team,” said James, who averaged 36.2 points in eight games against Charlotte this season. “We responded with a championship-type attitude.”
Chris Bosh added 17 points and Dwyane Wade battled through foul trouble and finished with 15 as Miami extended its winning streak over Charlotte to 20 games.
The Heat improved to 16-2 in first-round games since James’ arrival four years ago. This was the second straight year the Heat swept their first-round series, taking out Milwaukee in four games last season.
This was Miami’s ninth consecutive series victory.
“We improved every game and that’s the most important thing about this series,” James said.
Miami began to take control midway through the third quarter shortly after James gave his teammates a scare when he drove to the basket from the left wing and his right thigh collided with Bismack Biyombo’s knee, sending James to the floor.
Concerned teammates gathered around him and he was down for about a minute.
James eventually got up and hobbled to the bench where sat down during a timeout. But he stayed in the game.
After the timeout he buried a 3-pointer and a long jumper before a one-handed dunk to help give the Heat a 73-66 lead with 4:51 left in the third quarter. Miami pushed the lead to 13 when Norris Cole knocked down a 3-point buzzer-beater from the right corner at the end of the quarter.
Charlotte never got closer than seven points in the fourth quarter.
Kemba Walker picked up the slack, playing tough throughout and finishing with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Hawks 107, Pacers 97
In Indianapolis, Mike Scott made five 3-pointers during a 30-6 second-quarter run and Atlanta fended off a furious fourth-quarter rally to beat top-seeded Indiana and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Hawks can clinch the first-round series at home Thursday.
Scott scored all 17 of his points during a 12-minute stretch when Atlanta went 13 of 16 from the field and outscored Indiana 41-19 to take a 61-40 halftime lead.
The Hawks and the 1970 Milwaukee Bucks are the only road teams in the shot-clock era to score at least 40 points and allow fewer than 20 in any quarter of a playoff game.
Shelvin Mack led eighth-seeded Atlanta with 20 points.
Paul George had 26 for Indiana, which got as close as eight points in the final minute. Spurs 93, Mavericks 89
In Dallas, Manu Ginobili scored 23 points and Boris Diaw hit a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute as San Antonio held off a second-half surge by the Mavericks to even the first-round playoff series.
The Spurs regained the home-court advantage by getting a split of two games in Dallas, matching what the eighth-seeded Mavericks did in San Antonio.
The Spurs led by 20 points in the third quarter before the Mavericks pulled even midway through the fourth quarter of Game 4. The score was still tied when Diaw hit from long range over Dirk Nowitzki at the top of the key for a 90-87 lead.
Monta Ellis led Dallas with 20 points but missed two potential tying shots after Diaw’s basket.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Antonio.
Nowitzki had 19 points and was held under 20 for a fourth straight playoff game.