(The Sports Xchange) ———-Forward LeBron James returned to the lineup and led the Miami Heat to a 108-82 victory over the New York Knicks.
Wearing an intimidating-looking black mask to protect his broken nose, James had 31 points, four rebounds and four assists in his first game since he was hurt last Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the Knicks cut the Heat’s lead to two points early in the third quarter, Miami went on a 26-5 run to put the game away. James had 12 points during that surge.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade added 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting, but James was the stand out. He made 13 of 19 shots from the floor and showed no ill effects from the broken nose he suffered on a foul by Thunder forward Serge Ibaka.
Forward Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 29 points.
The victory was Miami’s sixth successive win and they remain two games behind the Indiana Pacers in the battle for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Miami have a 41-14 record while Indiana are 44-13 after they beat Milwaukee 101-96.
Pacers 101, Bucks 96
Center Roy Hibbert scored a game-high 24 points and had 12 rebounds to power the Pacers to a hard-fought 101-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Pacers, who lead the Central Division by 13 games, rallied from a six-point deficit in the third quarter as forward Paul George added 18 points and a game-high six assists.
Guard Brandon Knight led the Bucks with 23 points.
Wizards 134, Raptors 129 (3 OT)
Guard John Wall scored 31 points while center Marcin Gortat also scored 31 points and added 12 rebounds as the Washington Wizards defeated the Toronto Raptors 134-129 in triple overtime.
Wall, who scored eight of his points in overtime, made a driving layup in the final minute of the third extra period to give the Wizards a four-point lead.
Guard DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 34 points.
Nets 112, Nuggets 89
Forward Paul Pierce scored 18 points before sitting out the entire fourth quarter as the Brooklyn Nets raced out to a big lead early and never relented in a 112-89 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Guard Marcus Thornton scored 10 points in his second game since joining Brooklyn at the trade deadline last week. The Nets are 27-29 and within reach of Toronto for first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Nets embarrassed the now-woeful Nuggets despite solid games from forward Kenneth Faried (14 points, eight rebounds) and guard Randy Foye (15 points).
Their efforts were not nearly enough to overcome Denver’s worst period of the season. The Nuggets were just 3-for-18 from the field in the first quarter and had as many points as turnovers, eight.