LeBRON JAMES scored 26 points, rookie point guard Norris Cole came up with 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, and the Miami Heat nearly blew a 20-point lead before beating the visiting Boston Celtics, 115-107, last night.
Dwyane Wade finished with 24 points and eight assists for Miami, which got 18 from Chris Bosh and twice saw its lead cut to three in the final minutes. Cole delivered the answer both times with a pair of jump shots, and the Heat escaped.
Ray Allen scored 28 points on 8-for-12 shooting for the Celtics, while Rajon Rondo finished with 22 points and 12 assists and Keyon Dooling scored 18 off the Boston bench.
Through two games, Miami (2-0) has trailed only once - by two points, for all of 14 seconds.
Cole's jumper with 3:01 left gave Miami a 108-98 lead, most of which disappeared in the next 59 seconds, thanks to Dooling - a former Heat guard. He scored seven straight points, including a three-pointer with 2:02 remaining, cutting the Heat's lead to three. And when Boston got a stop on the next Miami trip, the Celtics looked for Dooling again.
But Wade stepped in front of a pass intended for Dooling, starting a play where James found Cole for another jumper, and Miami's cushion was back to 110-105 with 1:31 to play.
And with a minute left, it was Cole again, with the biggest shot of the night for Miami. James set him up from the top of the key for another jumper, restoring the five-point edge. When Cole stepped to the foul line to close the scoring, he got "M-V-P" chants from the Miami crowd, something typically reserved for the likes of Wade, James and Bosh.
Boston was again without forward Paul Pierce (bruised right heel), who worked out Monday and yesterday and is getting closer to a return, probably in Friday's home opener against Detroit.
At Newark, N.J., Marvin Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds for Atlanta, which opened a double-digit lead early and cruised to a 106-70 victory over the sluggish Nets in their final home opener in New Jersey. The crowd was booing the Brooklyn-bound team by halftime. Rookie MarShon Brooks had 17 points to lead the cold-shooting Nets, who looked tired coming off a season-opening win in Washington on Monday.
* At Milwaukee, rookie Jon Leuer converted a three-point play with 1:17 left, helping the Bucks hold off Minnesota, 98-95, in their home opener. Brandon Jennings scored 24 points and Stephen Jackson added 16 for the Bucks, who were playing without forward Drew Gooden because of a suspension for a flagrant foul and several other key players because of injuries. Kevin Love had 31 points and 20 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
* At Portland, Gerald Wallace scored 25 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 for the Trail Blazers, who pounded Sacramento, 101-79, in a game that had been tied at halftime.