MIAMI (AFP) - LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 50 points on Sunday to lead two-time defending National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Miami to a 99-88 victory over Charlotte in their post-season opener.
James made four of the Heat's 11 three-pointers and finished with 27 points and nine rebounds as the Heat seized the advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
Wade added 23 points and five assists for the Heat, who are trying to become the first club to win three straight NBA titles since the Los Angeles Lakers did it 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The star-studded Heat finished out the regular-season with three straight defeats, and conceded the top seed in the East to the Indiana Pacers.
Part of the reason was coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to rest James and Chris Bosh for the last two games, and Wade missed time late in the season as well.
On Sunday, however, it was clear James had meant it when he said he was looking forward to the play-offs - "the best part of the season".
He and Wade connected on 18 of their 32 attempts from the field. James Jones contributed 12 points off the bench and fellow reserve Chris Andersen scored eight rebounds and pulled down 10 rebounds while also effectively guarding Charlotte's most potent offensive threat, Al Jefferson.
Jefferson started strong but was hobbled after suffering a strain to his left plantar fascia in the first quarter.
He still played more than 35 minutes, scoring 18 points and one rebound. Kemba Walker's 20-point effort led the Bobcats, who are in the play-offs for just the second time and have never won a post-season game.
They were swept in four games by Orlando in 2010. The Bobcats will try again on Wednesday, when Miami host game two.
Eastern Conference action continued on Sunday with the Chicago Bulls hosting the Washington Wizards in the first game of their series.
The Bulls are in the play-offs for a sixth straight year, while the Wizards are back in the post-season for the first time since 2008.