Best player. Best game of his career.
Dazzling from inside and out, LeBron James put on the best scoring show of his NBA life on Monday night in Miami, pouring in 61 points — a career high and a franchise record — as the Heat beat the Charlotte Bobcats, 124-107. It was the eighth straight win for the two-time defending champions, who are starting to roll as the playoffs get near.
James made 22 of 33 shots from the field, including his first eight 3-point attempts, on the way to his historic night.
‘‘The man above has given me some unbelievable abilities to play the game of basketball,’’ James said. ‘‘I just try to take advantage of it every night. I got the trust of my teammates and my coaching staff to go in there and let it go.’’
His 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. ‘‘The rim looked like an ocean for him.’’
Al Jefferson scored 38 points and grabbed 19 rebounds for the Bobcats, his huge night merely an afterthought.
Nets 96, Bulls 80 — Jason Collins played the final minutes of a winning home debut with Brooklyn, which ended Chicago’s four-game winning streak.
Finally playing at home more than a week after returning to the NBA as the league’s first openly gay player, Collins checked in to a standing ovation with 2:41 remaining, committed a foul just five seconds later, and missed his only shot as the Nets won their third straight.
Deron Williams scored 20 points for the Nets.
Timberwolves 132, Nuggets 128 — Kevin Love had 33 points and 19 rebounds, helping Minnesota win in Denver. Love has scored 30 or more points a team-record 21 times this season.
Ty Lawson scored a season-high 31 points for the Nuggets in his first game since breaking a rib Feb. 8 at Detroit.
Kings 96, Pelicans 89 — DeMarcus Cousins had 23 points and 12 rebounds as Sacramento edged visiting New Orleans.
Tyreke Evans had 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists for the Pelicans, who have dropped eight straight.
Lakers 107, Trail Blazers 106 — Kent Bazemore’s alley-oop to Wesley Johnson for a dunk with 6.9 seconds left sent Los Angeles past host Portland. Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 22 points.
Grizzlies 110, Wizards 104 — Tayshaun Prince scored a season-high 21 points, and visiting Memphis withstood a late rally to snap Washington’s winning streak at six.
Pistons 96, Knicks 85 — Andre Drummond had 17 points and a career-high 26 rebounds, helping host Detroit surge past New York.
Bucks 114, Jazz 88 — Ersan Ilyasova scored a season-high 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting, and host Milwaukee hit a blistering 57 percent from the field to beat Utah.