LeBron James scored 31 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Miami Heat to a 116-112 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
In a battle of two of the NBA's elite teams Wednesday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Heat raced out to a 12-point lead after one quarter and had stretched that advantage to 14 points by the start of the fourth.
The Clippers fought back and narrowed the gap to two - 109-107 - with under a minute to go, but a clutch 3-pointer by sharpshooter Ray Allen virtually sealed the victory for the two-time defending champions.
Blake Griffin led the way for Los Angeles with a season-high 43 points, while Jamal Crawford poured in 31 in a losing effort.
But the Heat came out on top with a more balanced effort, getting double-digit scoring nights from six other players besides James: starters Shane Battier (14), Chris Bosh (15), Dwyane Wade (14) and Mario Chalmers (10), as well as reserves Allen (15) and Chris Andersen (12).
The Heat notched their third straight victory to improve to 35-13, three games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers.
The Clippers lost their second straight to fall to 34-18, the fifth-best record in the Western Conference.
In other action Wednesday night involving the Western Conference elite, the San Antonio Spurs rallied from a 14-point first half deficit to defeat the Washington Wizards 125-118 in double overtime.
The Portland Trail Blazers also edged the New York Knicks 94-90, the Oklahoma City Thunder continued their outstanding play with a 106-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Houston Rockets topped the Phoenix Suns 122-108. EFE