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Originally published March 3, 2014 at 9:54 PM | Page modified March 4, 2014 at 11:05 AM

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LeBron James scores a career-high 61 points

LeBron James scored a career-high 61 points, surpassing Glen Rice’s franchise record, and the Miami Heat defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 124-107.

The Associated Press and The Miami Herald

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MIAMI – Best player. Best game of his career.

LeBron James clearly isn’t ready to concede his most valuable player award to anyone yet.

Dazzling from inside and out, James put on the best scoring show of his NBA life on Monday night, pouring in 61 points — a career high and a franchise record — as the Miami Heat beat the Charlotte Bobcats 124-107. It was the eighth straight victory for the two-time defending champions, who are starting to roll as the playoffs approach.

James made 22 of 33 shots from the field, including his first eight three-point attempts, on the way to his historic night.

“It felt like I had a golf ball and was throwing it into the ocean,” he said.

James’ career best had been 56 points, on March 20, 2005, for Cleveland against Toronto. Glen Rice scored 56 to set the Heat record on April 15, 1995, against Orlando.

James had 24 points at halftime, then added 25 in the third quarter. The record-setter came with 5:46 left, when James spun through three defenders for a layup that fell as he tumbled to the court.

“There was an efficiency to what he was doing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra walked into his postgame news conference with a confession: He nearly took James out after the third quarter.

Good thing he thought better of that plan.

“He was in a great groove, obviously,” Spoelstra said.

Al Jefferson scored 38 points and grabbed 19 rebounds for the Bobcats, his huge night merely an afterthought.

This was all about LeBron.

He was hitting from everywhere, even a pullup three-pointer from about 30 feet — Spoelstra joked it was from 40 — late in the third quarter, as the crowd roared and the Heat bench jumped with joy.

“Yeah, that was a designed play,” Spoelstra deadpanned. “We’ve been working on that one for a while.”

When James checked out with 1:24 left, the Heat roster met him near midcourt for high-fives and hugs.

Teammate Shane Battier told the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale: “No one else wanted to shoot it, literally. We didn’t want to shoot his passes. We were passing it right back to him.”

Charlotte has allowed the two biggest scoring totals in the league this season. Carmelo Anthony had 62 points for the New York Knicks against the Bobcats on Jan. 24.

Other games

Kevin Love scored 33 points and tied a season high with 19 rebounds for his league-best 50th double-double this season, and visiting Minnesota beat skidding Denver 132-128 for its third victory in a row.

• Center Jason Collins played the final minutes of a winning home debut with the Brooklyn Nets, who beat Chicago 96-80.

Finally playing at home more than a week after returning to the NBA as the league’s first openly gay player, Collins checked in with 2:41 remaining to a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 17,732 that included former league commissioner David Stern. Collins committed a foul five seconds later and missed his only shot as the Nets won their third straight.

DeMarcus Cousins had 23 points and 12 rebounds, ex-Washington Huskies guard Isaiah Thomas scored 22 and host Sacramento beat New Orleans 96-89.

Kent Bazemore threw an alley-oop to Wesley Johnson for a go-ahead dunk with 6.9 seconds left to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 107-106 victory at Portland, ending the Trail Blazers’ winning streak at five.

Portland’s Damian Lillard missed a three-point attempt as time expired.

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