PHILADELPHIA — So much for Miami’s losing streak. LeBron James & Co. were back in business in a big way.
James had 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds to help the Miami Heat snap a three-game skid and beat the Philadelphia 76ers 101-86 on Friday night.
“It was great to see our energy from the beginning, basically, to the end,” James said. “That’s what we are. We can’t be nobody else. We’ve got to be us.”
Being themselves has worked out fine for the Heat. The two-time defending NBA champions avoided their first four-game losing streak since March 2011.
The Heat had dropped games at New York, Brooklyn and Washington. They had no trouble in their second game against the Sixers. They led by 25 and atoned for a 114-110 loss to Philadelphia in October.
Chris Bosh scored 25 points and Norris Cole and Shane Battier had 13 points.
“We didn’t do everything perfect,” coach Eric Spoelstra said.
He could have fooled the Sixers.
Tony Wroten led Philadelphia with 13 points and Spencer Hawes had 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Sixers missed 18 of 20 3-pointers and had 23 turnovers.
James was stretched, twisted and massaged in the locker room, headphones on, and glued to the Sixers’ recent win over Charlotte on the big screen.
About an hour before tip, he hardly seemed concerned the losing streak would hit four.
“It’s a long season, man,” he said. “Every now and then, you just need to refocus.”
They found moments of clarity against the Sixers.
At one point, Philadelphia used a lineup of Wroten, Dewayne Dedmon, Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies and Elliot Williams.
That rotation won’t win too many games.
It never stood a chance against the Heat.
Back in October, the Sixers made their first 11 shots and raced to leads of 19-0 and 26-4, putting the champs on their heels a night after they received their rings.
“It seems 1,000 years ago,” Sixers coach Brett Brown.
It was also the highlight of a season that has the Sixers tumbling toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference — which has been the plan all along as the franchise tries to gobble lottery picks and rebuild. It’s why Brown has a four-year contract and a promise of patience from ownership.
But that win against the Heat still danced in their heads until tip.
“They were able to beat an NBA champion and you can’t take it away from them,” Brown said.
No, but they sure couldn’t do it again. The Heat scored 17 seconds into the game, raced to a 12-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back.
James brought what had to be about 10,000 Heat fans to their feet with a rim-rattling dunk in transition. Bosh scored 15 in the first half and Battier hit three 3s. The Sixers? Well, they missed 12 of 13 3-point attempts in the first half and committed 10 turnovers. They never led.
They rested their starters and played all subs in the fourth.
“They earned the right to keep trying to make a push for it,” Hawes said.
James crushed Davies in a 1-on-1 mismatch late in the fourth, burying a string of mid-range jumpers to stretch the lead to 20. Bosh-to-James for the alley-oop made it 96-79. His left shoulder was heavily wrapped in ice after the game to nurse a hard hit suffered against the Wizards.
Dwyane Wade, who missed the first game against the Sixers, scored eight points on his 32nd birthday. He missed the first Sixers game because it was the second game on back-to-back nights. He’ll sit out Saturday’s game at Charlotte.
“We know how to fix it,” Wade said. “Sometimes, it takes you going through certain things to fix it.”
James posted a collage of photos on his Instagram account as part of a birthday tribute to his friend and teammate.
“Happy Bday to my running mate, homie, brother, and most of all straight up friend!” James wrote. “The friendship we’ve created our rookie year at pre draft camp was pure and that’s why we stuck together from that point on! Obviously didn’t know we would eventually become teammates and do the things we’ve done so far. I came to Miami for 2 reasons. To play with U and to win championships and I can’t thank u enough for the sacrifice you’ve made since I arrived homie! No matter what happens in the future we stuck together like brothers for life.”
James, who can become a free agent again this summer, was amused that his message was interpreted by some that he may leave Miami.
“I was more focused on our friendship and where life can take us,” he said.
NOTES: Los Angeles Angels OF Mike Trout, a Millville, N.J., resident, was at the game. ... Heat C Greg Oden sat out two days after he played his first game in four-plus years. Oden wore a basketball-sized ice pack on his left knee in the locker room before the game. ... Brown, a long-time assistant for San Antonio, said it was hard to forget how the Spurs lost Game 6 and then the NBA Finals to the Heat. “You just want to flip a desk,” he said. ... Wade said before the game his mom had yet to call to wish him a happy birthday.