Bobcats crash and burn against weakened Heat
(Reuters) - The Miami Heat were without starters Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem but still feasted on the league's worst team, handing the Charlotte Bobcats a 15th consecutive loss in a 105-82 home romp on Friday.
LeBron James scored 19 points and Chris Bosh added 18 as the Heat won for the first time in three games to resume their chase of the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls got the better of the Heat in Chicago a day earlier and that overtime loss appeared to inspire Miami for Friday's game.
"We could've come in here and really dragged and had a huge hangover from (Thursday night), but life goes on," Bosh told reporters." We had a game to get and a chance to get better."
The Bulls now lead the Heat by 3 1/2 games, although both teams have already secured playoff berths.
Standout guard Wade remained sidelined with an ankle injury while forward Haslem did not play because of a virus.
Forward Mike Miller and center Rony Turiaf also sat out the game as the Heat get ready to play their remaining eight games in 12 days.
"Whenever we can take advantage of our opponents and rest guys and extend our bench, it definitely gives us a chance to recuperate," Miami guard James Jones said.
Despite coming up against a weakened Heat side, Charlotte (7-51) fell to within one game of a franchise record for consecutive losses.
Derrick Brown had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Michael Jordan-owned Bobcats, whose last win came on March 17, with the outcome never in doubt once Miami had rushed to a 33-19 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Elsewhere, the Indiana Pacers claimed the third playoff spot in the East, overcoming a slow start for a 102-83 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Danny Granger had 18 points and Tyler Hansbrough scored 16 as Indiana joined Chicago and Miami in the postseason.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. " We felt for a while we would be in the playoffs but until we get home court advantage there is still work to be done."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by John O'Brien)