CHARLOTTE: LeBron James shook off fears of an injury scare to score 31 points on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) and spark defending NBA champion Miami over Charlotte 109-98, completing a first-round playoff sweep.
James, who took a knee to the left thigh and was briefly limping, added nine assists and seven rebounds for the visiting Heat, who won the best-of-seven series in the minimum to advance.
“We got better every game. You improve every game,” James said. “To have the kind of mindset we had on the road was big time.”
Miami will face either Brooklyn or Toronto for a berth in the Eastern Conference final as they try to win their third NBA crown in a row and reach the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season.
Before the game, Heat players ditched their warmup outfits at center court and wore practice jerseys inside out, a show of solidarity with the Los Angeles Clippers, who did the same thing Sunday in a silent protest in the wake of racist comments attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling that have become a major controversy.
After the game, James shook hands with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, the retired legend who four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James is often compared against as the best players in NBA history.
“It was a sign of respect,” James said. “We had great respect for this team. They are a team on the uprising.”
The injury fear came when James took a knee to his left thigh from seven-foot center Bismack Biyombo 8:43 into the third quarter.
After losing the ball out of bounds, James limped to the Heat bench during a timeout and received treatment on the sore thigh.
He returned to spark a 12-4 Miami run by scoring the first seven points to give the Heat a seven-point edge and Miami was not threatened after that.