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James scores 61, setting career-high and Heat-best

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 4, 2014 at 6:21 am •  Published: March 4, 2014
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"Yeah, that was a designed play," Spoelstra deadpanned. "We've been working on that one for a while."

That was the moment, James said, when he knew he was in the midst of a special night.

"I felt pretty good in the first half but halftime can always kind of derail things and slow things up," James said. "But I was able to get things going once again in the third quarter and I knew it could be one of those nights."

Not "one of those nights."

Even for James, this was like no other.

"Once he sniffed 60, we knew he was going for it," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "And the amazing part is the efficiency. Good Lord. Sixty-one on 33 shots, that's Wilt Chamberlain-esque. That's pretty amazing. Incredible performance."

When James checked out with 1:24 left, the entire Heat roster met him near midcourt for high-fives and hugs, and the sellout crowd gave him a standing ovation. A second huge roar followed when he waved to the crowd, as "M-V-P" chants rained down.

"If he's going to shoot the ball like that from that range, there's nobody that's going to beat them," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said.

Miami was without guard Dwyane Wade, who got a night off to rest. Spoelstra stressed there's been no setback for Wade, who has been on a knee-maintenance program throughout this season and is averaging 23.5 points on 62 percent shooting since the All-Star break.

Wade probably didn't mind sitting for this one. It gave him a courtside seat for the show.

James made three 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes of the quarter — he was 6 for 6 from beyond the arc at that point — and when Charlotte bit on his head fake from the top of the key, James coolly found Toney Douglas to set up another 3. A tip-in by James followed not long afterward and just like that, the lead was up to 83-63.

Charlotte scored the next six points, but any notion that the game was slipping from Miami's control was quickly extinguished.

James scored the next six himself, a pair of three-point plays to restore the 20-point edge and give him 43 points, already a season high.

All that was left to see was what he'd finish with.

The answer was history.

James has been asked plenty of times in recent weeks about the MVP race, especially with many prognosticators suggesting the trophy is likely headed to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.

Might be time to reopen the thinking on that one.

"Every night I go on the floor I want to be the MVP, of this league, MVP of this team, MVP for me, myself and my family," James said. "I've set a high standard and I have to live by that."

On this night, he did. And more.