LeBron James scored 23 points on Thursday to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 114-88 victory over the Miami Heat that dimmed his former team’s playoff hopes.

James passed former Knicks center Patrick Ewing for 20th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a hook shot in the first quarter.

His 23 points in the game gave him 24,837 for his career.

He also handed out seven assists and pulled down eight rebounds in the win over his former team, which turned even more damaging for the Heat with the departure of Dwyane Wade with a left knee injury in the second quarter.

The Cavs’ young star Kyrie Irving scored 23 points also, while Iman Shumpert added 17 points off the bench.

Tristan Thompson pulled down 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who moved three and a half games ahead of idle Toronto for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside scored 17 points apiece for Miami, who are now in a virtual tie with Boston for the eighth and final playoff berth in the East with seven games left in the regular season.

The Heat scored seven straight points early in the first quarter to take an early lead, but the Cavaliers took the lead for good on James’s jump shot with 5:27 left in the quarter.

Miami shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half but still trailed 61-50 at the break.

The Heat led 91-72 after three quarters and were never threatened in the fourth.

But the biggest blow to the Heat could be the loss of Wade, who was dribbling near the baseline in the second quarter when his right foot slipped and his left knee buckled.

Wade slipped to the ground in pain, eventually rising and walking off the court to the locker room.

The Heat said the injury was a bruised left knee.

Wade has battled knee trouble for several years and just had the same knee drained last Saturday.

“It could have been worse,” said Wade, who said he still hopes he’ll be ready to play at Detroit on Saturday. “I knew I was in trouble on my way down.” – Agence France-Presse

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