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Wade returns in final minutes to help Heat fight off Bobcats

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade emerged after the game wearing oversized red boxing gloves and a black robe, barely able to see out of his left eye after getting struck by Juwan Howard.

He had a message for the Charlotte big man, too.

"The next time I see you, I got you, Chicago-style," Wade said with a laugh.

Yes, the Miami Heat star was ailing, but Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook did enough to put a smile on Wade's stitched-together face. Fighting off the flu, Wade scored 22 points, Chalmers added 16 with a career-best 13 assists, and Cook's 16-point effort included two key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Heat beat the Bobcats 96-92 Sunday night.

"I thought we played good," Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. "They just played great."

Udonis Haslem scored 14 for Miami, which shot a season-best 56 percent.

D.J. Augustin scored 27 points for Charlotte, which has lost five straight. Howard added 14 points and one blow that forced Wade into getting six stitches.

Boris Diaw and Emeka Okafor each scored 10 for the Bobcats.

Raymond Felton hit a 3-pointer with 43.2 seconds left to get Charlotte within 93-89, but Wade emerged with an offensive rebound on the next possession and Haslem sealed it with two free throws. Until then, Miami was only 2-for-8 from the line.

"We may have had a fatigued group out there," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I wanted to make sure we were fresh in the second half and I thought our starters played with a tremendous amount of energy when they had their legs."

With Wade ailing, he sat out the first 4½ minutes of the final quarter, and returned with the Heat clinging to a 76-74 lead.

He didn't have to win it by himself.

Cook made a pair of 3-pointers shortly after Wade came back, including one where he picked up a ball that was knocked away from the 2006 finals MVP, collected himself at the top of the key and swished one for an 82-77 edge.

"It was a break that we haven't gotten in four of the last five games," Wade said. "That was a big shot."

Said Cook: "I was in rhythm. That was a natural shot for me."

Wade reclaimed the NBA scoring lead from LeBron James, who was held to 16 earlier Sunday when Cleveland lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. Wade is now averaging 28.3 points per game, while James -- who took over the top spot Saturday when Wade scored 21 in a loss to Philadelphia -- is at 28.2.

The Bobcats were without forward Vladimir Radmanovic, acquired Saturday from the Los Angeles Lakers for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown. Radmanovic was hoping to play -- the newest Bobcat was getting checked out by team doctors two hours before game time -- but the Lakers didn't complete physicals for Morrison and Brown beforehand.

Charlotte gave Miami a battle anyway.

The Heat scraped out a 43-39 halftime lead, getting two stellar plays in the final minute. Wade stole the ball from Augustin and found Haslem for an alley-oop lob, then Chalmers coolly brought the ball upcourt as time was expiring and scored while getting knocked to the floor at the horn.

Augustin had 11 points in the third period, including a 3-pointer tying the game at 47 with 7:40 left and drawing a fist pump from Bobcats' boss Michael Jordan -- who sat opposite the corner where Miami has his No. 23 retired.

Augustin hit another 3 for a 53-50 lead, before Miami closed the quarter on a 19-8 run.

"We can't afford to make a whole lot of mistakes because we don't have that closer," Howard said. "We don't have that Dwyane Wade on our team. ... What we have are guys that play hard and are talented but just don't have that greatness."

Shortly after he began wearing the bandage on his left cheek, Wade -- who said after the game that he couldn't remember the hit by Howard, other than "it was hard" -- hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 55, then found Chalmers with a pass for another 3 that gave the Heat the lead.

Chalmers finished with eight points and four assists in the third quarter alone, giving him his first career double-double with 13:01 left to play.

"Ever since the first game, I've been waiting for it," Chalmers said. "Finally got it."

Game notes
The Heat were 0-for-4 from the foul line in the first half, the eighth time in franchise history that's happened. Miami didn't get a free throw to drop until 7:27 remained in the third quarter, when Wade hit the second of two. ... Cook returned after missing three games with a bruised thigh. ... It was only the second 20-point game for Augustin since Dec. 16.