MIAMI —LeBron James tipped the ball away at one end, ran well ahead of the pack to grab the deflection, then rose for a fierce one-handed slam.
Later, he dribbled down the middle of the lane and beat four—yes, four— defenders for another score that sent Tyrus Thomas falling over courtside photographers.
That hamstring issue?
It seemed like a non-issue.
James scored 33 points—the best by anyone so far this preseason—in only 29 minutes, before sitting out the fourth quarter and watching the Charlotte Bobcats rally past the Miami Heat 102-96 on Monday night.
D.J. Augustin scored 19 points, Nazr Mohammed added 14 and Stephen Jackson scored 10 for Charlotte, which outscored Miami 31-16 over the final 12 minutes with both teams having their starters turned into spectators. Derrick Brown scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth for Charlotte, and Thomas scored nine of his 15 in the final period for the Bobcats.
“I think the biggest thing is we found a way to grind it out with our second team," Jackson said.
The bright side for Miami? Easy. James missed a game and a practice last week after experiencing some cramping and soreness in his right leg, but looked like his two-time MVP self again, making 10 of 17 shots from the field and 12 of 13 from the free throw line.
The Heat were without Dwyane Wade, who remained on the witness stand in a Chicago courtroom testifying in the trial that will decide custody of his two young sons. Wade has been working out as he recovers from a strained right hamstring, and said Monday that his “goal is to be back and healthy for the beginning of the season."
There’s a lot of guys in the Miami and Charlotte locker rooms hoping the same.
Charlotte was missing a slew of players, including forward Dominic McGuire (left shin stress fracture), guard Shaun Livingston (left knee soreness), center Kwame Brown (left ankle sprain) and forward Eduardo Najera (sports hernia). Miami was again without guard Mario Chalmers (left ankle soreness), who was scratched about an hour before tipoff.
In Oakland, California, David Lee had 21 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the preseason, Monta Ellis scored 22 points and the Golden State Warriors beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 100-78.
Stephen Curry added 11 points and had six assists while Andris Biedrins had eight points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors (3-2), who rallied from 11 points down in the first half.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 11 points for Portland, all but two coming in the first half. Andre Miller added 10 points and four assists for the Blazers (2-4).
In San Antonio, Kevin Durant scored 29 points to lead five Oklahoma City players in double figures and the Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 111-102 in a preseason game Monday night.
Jeff Green added 27 points and nine rebounds for the Thunders (3-2), while James Harden had 18 points, Russell Westbrook 17 and Serge Ibaka 12.
Durant was 10 of 23 from the field, including 3 of 5 from behind the arc, and 6 of 8 from the free throw line. He had nine rebounds and three assists.
Most of Durant’s much-needed output came in the second half after the Spurs scorched the Thunder with 22 transition points in the first two quarters.
In Memphis, Tennessee, Mike Conley scored 19 points, Rudy Gay had 16 and reserve rookie guard Xavier Henry added 15 to help the Memphis Grizzlies remain unbeaten in the preseason with a 96-91 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.
Henry scored 14 points in the second half and sparked the Grizzlies in the final quarter. Memphis entered the fourth quarter trailing 74-67, but opened the period on an 11-2 run capped by Henry’s 3-pointer from the right wing for a 78-76 lead.
The Grizzlies built the lead to nine points in the game’s closing minute.
Memphis (7-0) hasn’t won as many games in the preseason since 2005-06, the last season in which it qualified for the playoffs.
In Atlanta, Brandon Bass had 17 points and eight rebounds and Dwight Howard added 14 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Orlando Magic to a 102-73 preseason victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.
Jameer Nelson scored 17 points for the Magic (6-0), while Vince Carter had 13 points and three rebounds.
“I think our defense right now is far ahead of our offense," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I’m not trying to be negative. We’ve just got to go to work. What’s getting us through is our intensity. Our intensity is very high. We’re playing tougher than we were a year ago."
Reserve Josh Powell scored 13 points for the Hawks (1-4), while Joe Johnson had 11 points, on 3-of-10 shooting, six rebounds and four assists and Josh Smith added eight points and seven rebounds.