- Associated Press - Sunday, January 6, 2013

MIAMI — The Miami Heat hit the boards from the start and pulled away at the end.

Chastened by a rare home defeat, Miami had a rebounding advantage for a change Sunday and scored the final 21 points to beat the woeful Washington Wizards 99-71.

The Heat were coming off only their third home loss of the season Friday against Chicago. They allowed the Bulls 20 second-chance points, but Washington totaled just four.

Miami, beaten on the boards by a total of 38 rebounds over the previous three games, this time enjoyed a 50-39 advantage. Udonis Haslem had 12 rebounds and Chris Bosh added nine.

“There were some better in-traffic battles, guys going up and trying to get it with two hands, guys getting up off the ground,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That disposition to rebound was better. It’s an effort thing.”

The game matched the teams with the best and worst records in the Eastern Conference, and in the late going it looked like it. Miami scored the final 21 points and held Washington scoreless over the last 7:07.

“The defense came alive,” LeBron James said. “We understand that if we want to win, ultimately we have to defend.”

James scored 24 points, extending his streaks of scoring at least 20 to 32 consecutive games this season, and 53 in a row including last year’s playoff run.

James launched into a long jump in dismay when his dunk was waved off because of a Wizards foul. He gave the Heat a scare when he tweaked his left ankle and limped away from a scrum after drawing a foul, but he stayed in the game.

And there was no slackening in his scoring pace. He shot 9 for 17 and had seven assists.

The Wizards (4-28), last in the NBA in points and shooting, clanked a succession of open shots and hit 36 only percent. They lost their fifth game in a row and fell to 0-13 on the road against Eastern Conference teams.

Miami improved to 16-3 at home and now embarks on a six-game trip.

“We’re going to see where we’re at,” Bosh said. “Trips are always a test.”

As the Heat center, Bosh became a focus of criticism for their poor work on the boards. In response, he said, he kept track of his rebound total during the game.

“I’m just counting them so everybody will get off my back,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s nine today. OK. Now I need to get nine the next game — or maybe even 10.

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