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MIAMI – The defensive effort was closer to Miami Heat standards.

LeBron James made it difficult to notice anything but offense.

James scored 33 points on 13 -of-21 shooting — with an array of post-up moves getting him going early, then a barrage of three-pointers fueling a big third-quarter push — and the Heat encountered little trouble on the way to a 118-95 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter, his best 12-minute stretch of the season and an indicator a balky back that slowed him during the season’s first couple weeks is improving.

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“It’s getting better,” James said. “It feels a lot better. Still a little sore … getting a lot of work put on it so I can get to 100 percent. But it’s getting better every day and that’s a good thing.”

Michael Beasley scored 19 points and Mario Chalmers finished with 15 points and seven assists for the Heat.

Miami, the two-time defending league champion, played without Udonis Haslem (back) and Ray Allen (ill). Shane Battier started in Haslem’s place.

“It wasn’t perfect,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team was coming off a final-second loss to Boston on Saturday. “There were still some areas we definitely need to improve on, in terms of the details and discipline. But at least the effort, the activity was better, the disposition right from the beginning and it carried through once we got into the rotation.”

Reserves John Henson and Gary Neal each scored 18 points for Milwaukee, which shot 42 percent.

Nowitzki passes West in scoring

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki had 19 points to pass retired guard Jerry West on the league’s career scoring list, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Washington Wizards 105-95.

Nowitzki made consecutive three-pointers late in the third quarter, the second one putting him at 25,194 points for 16th place, two points ahead of West.

Trevor Ariza led the Wizards with 27 points, including five three-pointers. He also had seven rebounds and four steals.

Monta Ellis started slowly from the field before scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter to help the Mavericks improve to 4-0 at home this season. Ellis matched Nowitzki with 19 points.


Jordan Hill scored a career-high 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in his first start of the season, leading the host Los Angeles Lakers to a 116-95 victory over New Orleans.

Stephen Curry had 25 points and eight assists, helping Golden State build a 19-point first-quarter lead in a 113-95 victory over visiting Detroit.

• Chicago Bulls officials say point guard Derrick Rose is day to day with a sore right hamstring.

Rose winced after he drove for a twisting layup with 3:39 left during Chicago’s 96-81 victory over Cleveland on Monday.

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