From Comcast SportsNetCHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- LeBron James grew up watching wrestling.So when Ric "The Nature Boy" Flair walked into the arena on Wednesday night, one of the NBA's best entertainers knew it was time to put on his own show.James did just that.The reigning MVP had 27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists as the Heat handed the Charlotte Bobcats their 16th straight loss, 105-92 on Wednesday night.Dwyane Wade added 29 points and nine rebounds, and Mario Chalmers had 17 points as the Heat opened a four-game trip with a win."When I was a kid, I loved wrestling," James said. "He was one of the guys I loved, too. I think he's one of the creators of what we call swag these days with the Rolexes and the stretch limos and all the girls and all that stuff. He's one of the creators of swag."James showed some swag of his own early with four dunks in the first five minutes to get the Heat off to a quick start en route to their sixth straight win.Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game his team respected the Bobcats. However, Spoelstra hinted he was a little worried about the energy Miami expended in a win over Oklahoma city and whether they would be able to get up for the struggling Bobcats.Spoelstra talked to his players before the game, and his words seemed to work.Miami quickly opened a 9-0 lead behind a 3-pointer by Chalmers and three straight dunks -- two by James and another by Chris Bosh, who had 14 points. James was the catalyst in the first quarter with 11 points -- eight on fast-break dunks -- with four steals and four rebounds."I thought we came in with the right mindset and disposition," Spoelstra said. "We were a little more inconsistent in the second half, but we found a way. That Charlotte team continues to claw and scratch and plays hard regardless of the tough road they've had. They just keep on coming at you."It looked as though Miami was on its way to a blowout win. That wasn't the case.While the Heat never trailed and led by as many as 19, they couldn't deliver the knockout punch to the Bobcats, who were playing without starting center Byron Mullens, guard Ben Gordon, and forward Tyrus Thomas due to injuries.Down by 17 at halftime, the Bobcats whittled the lead down to 84-82 with 7:16 left when Gerald Henderson completed a three-point play.But James knocked down a 3-pointer, Wade hit jumpers from 17 and 19 feet, and Shane Battier added a 3-pointer from the right corner to complete an 11-3 run that pushed the lead to 10.Miami wasn't challenged again."That is what we're going to face on the road," Wade said. "The home team is not going to go away. We understand that. We have been through that over the last three years here so we're comfortable and confident in those situations. It's about making the right plays on both ends of the floor."James called it a bunker mentality."We understand that we haven't played great basketball on the road so far," James said. "But, we were able to take care of business tonight. For the most part over the last few weeks we've been playing some great basketball."Wade drew boos from the crowd after he delivered a knee to the groin of Ramon Sessions in the second half. But Sessions, who believed that Wade intentionally struck him, was actually called for a foul.Kemba Walker had 27 points, and Sessions added 19 points for the Bobcats (7-21), who haven't won since Nov. 24.Hakim Warrick, making his first start for the Bobcats in place of Mullens, had 18 points and nine rebounds. Sessions provided a big lift in a reserve role by hitting 7 of 12 shots, most coming off drives to the basket against an outmatched Mike Miller.Despite the loss, Walker said taking the defending champions to the wire was a needed boost of confidence for a young team like the Bobcats."I thought we played well in the second half," Walker said. "We really got after it and played hard and played up and down. We played like we did early in the season. If we keep that up, we'll be fine."NOTES:Heat guard Ray Allen missed the game because of a sore right shoulder. Allen was injured while setting a screen on Kendrick Perkins in the second half of Tuesday night's win over Oklahoma City. ... Charlotte's Gana Diop has four blocked shots in each of the last two games. He had one on James at the end of the first quarter.
College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.
There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.
If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.
Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.
Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.
“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”
The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”
Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.
But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.
“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”
Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.
“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”
Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.
Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.
“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”
And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.