MIAMI (AP) - This was supposed to be the easy game for the Miami Heat, the one respite in a brutal 13-game stretch where every other opponent is a playoff contender.
It turned out to be quite the challenge.
Dwyane Wade scored 41 points, LeBron James added 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and the Heat pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Washington Wizards 121-113 on Friday night.
``I got a couple to fall for me, and as a scorer, once you see the ball go through the basket, now you're going,' Wade said. ``I hit some jump shots and that opened up my game, and all I was getting from the sideline was 'Don't stop shooting.''
James nodded as Wade spoke. He was the one telling him to keep shooting.
The win moved Miami (43-16) a half-game past idle Boston (41-15) in the Eastern Conference, even though the Celtics' winning percentage of .732 tops the Heat by three one-thousandths of a point.
Chris Bosh scored 15 points and Mario Chalmers finished with 14 for the Heat, who have won a season-best seven straight at home.
Nick Young scored 38 points for Washington, which got 24 points and 12 assists from John Wall and an 18-point, 17-rebound night from JaVale McGee. The Wizards were within two points late in the third quarter, before falling to 1-28 on the road.
Young went head-to-head with Wade much of the night, holding his own.
``He's one of the best players in the league, but at the same time I'm not going to show him too much respect out there,' Young said. ``It's just like every other player. I'm going to go out there, play hard, and play my best.'
Miami lost in Chicago on Thursday and its next 11 games are against teams that expect to be in the playoff chase, starting with a Sunday night matchup against Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and the new-look New York Knicks.
A night after shooting 1 for 18 in the loss to the Bulls, Bosh bounced back a bit, shooting 5 for 12 from the floor. He also had eight rebounds.
On this night, his shooting didn't matter much: Wade made a season-high 18 shots on 27 attempts.
``That's the best part about the NBA. ... We were able to redeem ourselves,' Bosh said.
Young was a matchup nightmare, carrying Washington for long stretches and finishing with his second-highest scoring game of the season, topped only by a 43-point outburst against Sacramento on Jan. 11.
He twisted his left ankle early in the third quarter, already having scored 27 points in 24 minutes. After getting re-taped, Young returned, but simply wasn't as explosive as he seemed in the early going.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that when Young cooled a bit after the ankle twist, Miami pulled away.
A 20-8 Heat run just about sealed it, capped by Wade hitting the 40-point mark with a layup with 5:24 left for a 108-94 lead. Young made three free throws after getting fouled by Chalmers 26 feet from the basket with 29.5 seconds left, getting the Wizards within five, but James put it away with two free throws 1.7 seconds later.
``After the tough, emotional game we had last night, I think there was a little bit of a hangover at the beginning of the game,' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``Then we showed a lot more energy, at least on one side of the floor. We'll have to be better than that defensively.'
Washington's lone road win came against lowly Cleveland, and seven of its road losses are by more than 20 points.
It felt more like home in this one.
Young had 10 points in the first quarter, escaping injury when he leaped over the scorer's table, and Washington used a 22-9 run to build a five-point lead after the opening 12 minutes.
Then Wade went on one of his most scintillating runs of the season - making nine straight shots, the last eight in a span of just 3:38.
``Finally got it going,' Wade said.
Wade scored 18 of Miami's first 19 points of the second quarter, hitting everything from high-arcing touch shots in the lane, turnarounds from the baseline and pullup 3-pointers followed by a shout to his bench.
``The thing that becomes so tough is that Dwyane is phenomenal, throwing circus shots,' Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. ``And LeBron ... those guys put so much pressure on you. It's tough to beat them when they shoot 45 free throws and you get 23.'
Miami was 34 of 45 from the line, Washington 17 of 23.
Even with that, Miami couldn't get separation. It was 63-61 at halftime, and Washington didn't go away after the break, either.
The Wizards got within one point on four occasions in the third quarter, even tying the game once. Young missed the final 7 1/2 minutes of the quarter with the ankle injury, and the Wizards shot 5 for 17 over the remainder of the period after he tumbled to the court in pain.
``If we fight like this the rest of the season,' Wall said, ``we are going to win some games.'
NOTES: Spoelstra tied Kevin Loughery for second on Miami's career wins list (133), behind only Pat Riley (454). ... It was the fourth time this season where a Heat player made at least 17 field goals; Wade has now done it twice, as has James. ... Mike Bibby made his Wizards debut, going scoreless in 10 minutes. He was 0 for 4. ... It was the 32nd time Wade has scored at least 40 in a regular-season game.
The Associated Press News Service
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