LeBron helps Heat get better of Bucks

LeBron James helped Miami finally find a way past the Milwaukee Bucks, scoring 35 points in the Heat's 114-96 victory on Monday.

The Bucks had beaten the Heat in both meetings this season, and three successive times overall, but they were steamrolled on Monday despite taking an eight-point lead in the first quarter.

Inflicting most of his damage from close range, James made 16 of 21 field goal attempts and keyed Miami's third-quarter surge where they took a stranglehold on the encounter to cruise to a sixth win in seven games.

"They beat us twice, handily. We knew it," James told reporters. "We made a conscious effort to try to get to our game. Like we played last night (in a 20-point win over Atlanta), we wanted to try to do the same thing tonight."

Milwaukee's quick start was erased in the second quarter and they trailed by five at halftime. The Heat upped the pace after the intermission and outscored the home team 35-24 in the third.

James had 16 in the critical third while Dwyane Wade chipped in with 22 points for the game as Miami (22-7) moved within a half-game of the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference lead.

Carlos Delfino finished with a team-high 24 points for the Bucks (12-16), who shot just 39 percent in slumping to their fifth defeat in seven games.

Milwaukee's struggles have dropped them outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Brandon Jennings, the team's leading scorer, had 12 points in another sub-par performance.

"We had to get our hands dirty, which we didn't do in the first two games," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "But it was a good sign that we did it this way against a very physical team." (Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)