Greeted by scattered boos from a sellout crowd following his trademark chalk clap at the scorer's table before the game, James just smiled. It was a reminder he was playing on the road, where he says he has his best games.
James scored 43 points, including 23 in a dominant third quarter, and the Heat beat the slumping Atlanta Hawks 106-85 on Friday night.
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When asked what led to his big game, James said: "Just the road."
"That's the similarity," he said. "All on the road. I enjoy being on the road, I enjoy playing against not only the opposing players but the opposing fans. It's fun."
James' season high was 51 points at Orlando on Feb. 3. He began the night averaging 27.2 points on the road and 25.0 in Miami.
James' dominance affected the game plans of both teams. Miami players saw early they should let James take control, and Atlanta players lost their focus and began shooting jump shots in an ill-fated attempt to keep pace.
"We got a little discouraged when LeBron was making all those shots," said Atlanta's Al Horford, who said his team "just kind of lost sight of going inside."
James made 16 of 21 shots, including five 3-pointers. He outscored the Hawks 23-20 in the third quarter.
Even Wade was in awe.
"Every time he does it, you kind of don't know what to do," Wade said. "It's surreal."
Wade concluded his best course of action was to "get out of the way."
Added Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "Sometimes you have to sit back and let those guys do that."
The Heat took the lead for good midway through the opening period and put the game away in such convincing fashion that James and the other starters sat out the final period.
Miami's starters took a big lead of 32 points before turning the game over to the backups.
"We're struggling right now," Horford said. "We're really trying to find ourselves. ... We've had some good times, but we're going through a real rough patch right now."
James said he "absolutely" could see his big third quarter break the Hawks' will.
"You make backbreaking 3s and pull-up jumpers and things like that, you continue to get stops, you can see that you start to wear them down," James said.
James had half of Miami's points in leading the Heat to an 86-57 lead through three periods. James then put on his warmup suit and watched the final period from the bench.
James was 8 for 8 from the field in the first half, when he had 20 points. He was just getting started.
He made eight of 13 shots from the field in his 23-point third quarter. Incredibly, it wasn't his most productive 12 minutes of the season. James had 24 points in the third quarter at Cleveland on Dec. 2.
The Hawks went about 5½ minutes without a field goal in the third period as Miami turned the game into a rout with a procession of 3-pointers and three-point plays.
James and Wade each had two 3-pointers in a 12-0 Miami run. James then added a dynamic three-point play, scoring on a scoop over Jamal Crawford, who was called for the foul. James then took a long walk past the Atlanta bench, staring at the crowd of 20,024, before adding the free throw for a 73-42 lead.
The Hawks' frustrations grew with their deficit.
James hit two free throws with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter to give him 40 of Miami's 80 points. He complained after he was fouled by Zaza Pachulia late in the period. The officials then huddled and called a flagrant foul on Pachulia. James made both free throws as Hawks coach Larry Drew complained to the officials that they were giving James superstar treatment.
"The officials saw it one way, and I saw it another way," Drew said.
Pachulia drew a second technical with 49 seconds remaining after he was fouled by Joel Anthony and then gave Anthony a light push on his way to the free-throw line.
Mike Bibby, making his first return to Atlanta, received a warm ovation when he entered the game late in the opening period. Bibby was traded to Washington on Feb. 23 in the five-player deal that sent Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta. Bibby walked away from his contract to sign with Miami on March 2.
Bibby had two points.
- Miami C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (right foot infection) was not with the team as he missed his fourth straight game. Spoelstra said Ilgauskas won't play when Miami plays a home game against Denver on Saturday.
- The Hawks made only 4 of 10 free throws in the first half and 12 of 22 for the game.
- James passed 17,000 points for his career, finishing the night with 17,012.