Basketball

James sinks 51 points to drown ex-team Heat

LeBron James returned to Miami for the first time as a Los Angeles Laker yesterday morning (Singapore time), dropping 51 points on his former team in a 113-97 NBA victory over the Heat.

James, who led the Heat to four NBA Finals appearances and two titles before returning to his hometown club Cleveland, made it look easy from the opening tip-off, scoring 19 points in the first quarter on the way to a season high.

The Lakers never trailed, leading by as many as 21 points.

James, who departed Cleveland for Los Angeles as a free agent before this season, set the tone early, making a steal to launch a fast break that he capped with a dunk for his first points.

He capped his spree with a three-pointer with 16 seconds to play - notching the 13th 50-point game of his career.

He's the first Lakers player since Kobe Bryant to have multiple 40-point games in a season, and he notched his first win over the Heat since departing as a free agent in 2014.

James connected on 19 of 31 shots from the floor, including six of eight from three-point range. He made seven of 10 free-throws, pulled down eight rebounds and handed out three assists.

The Lakers rebounded from a disappointing 130-117 loss to the Orlando Magic while handing the Heat a fourth straight defeat.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wasn't surprised by what he saw from the superstar he once coached.

"I've seen it before on our side," Spoelstra said. "No question, when he's hitting the three like that, that changes the equation.

"We probably should have gone more aggressively to take the ball out of his hands."

In San Antonio, the Golden State Warriors' malaise deepened with a third straight defeat, the two-time defending champions falling 104-92 to the San Antonio Spurs.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Spurs, who thwarted the Warriors' late rally bid, keeping the champions winless in a three-game swing through Texas.

It's just the third time since coach Steve Kerr took the helm at Golden State in 2014 that the Warriors have lost three games on the trot.

They were held to a season-low in points in a 107-86 loss to Houston on Thursday - after which Kerr admitted the team were both physically and "spiritually" banged-up - a reference to superstar Stephen Curry's groin injury and the spat between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant that saw Green suspended by the team for one game.

A day after a disappointing loss to the Mavericks in Dallas, the Warriors still couldn't find their rhythm, losing for the fifth time in seven games. Durant led the Warriors with 26 points, but made just eight of 25 shots. -AFP, REUTERS.

Basketball