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LeBron plays through illness to help Heat take care of Suns

Nov 18, 2012, 1:53 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

PHOENIX — A little more than 90 minutes before tip-off, the status of LeBron James was still uncertain. With Dwyane Wade already ruled out for the second straight game with a foot injury, Miami may have been in trouble if James too was unable to go.

Thankfully for the Heat, James found a way to push through.

While he wasn’t quite his usual self, a half-healthy James is better than most at 100 percent. He finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, a few assists, and a couple of steals, while playing almost 41 minutes in the Heat’s 97-88 win over the Suns in Phoenix.

“Well look, he doesn’t miss much,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward. “I can’t even remember the last time he’s missed a practice or a shoot around. So when he missed today, obviously that makes you wonder, and you know that it’s pretty serious. We knew yesterday that he hadn’t had any food, so he went through the whole day. In the late afternoon he was starting to be able to keep down Gatorade but that was about it.

“He said it was no hesitation, that he’d never leave those guys out there. But it was a little bit in doubt with us.”

How effective James would end up being on the night was in doubt as the game got started. He began with eight first-quarter minutes that were devoid of any statistical contributions, save for a rebound and a turnover, as he tried to involve his teammates early on. He then had to leave the court to head to the locker room, as he began to feel weak once again.

“Yeah, I got a little sick,” James said of his first quarter trip back to the locker room. “So I came back here to just try to get a little more fluids in me.”

Shane Battier knocked down a few wide open threes in the first, and Chris Bosh was big with 16 first-half points. But whatever nutrition James was able to get during that brief intermission paid immediate dividends.

James played the entire second quarter, and got himself going with a few jumpers and some trips to the free throw line. But as the game wore on, he picked his spots, and was able to close the game out when his team needed him the most.

This game was largely a sloppy one from both teams at times; Miami played loose with the basketball to the tune of 19 turnovers, while the Suns weren’t much better with 17 of their own. Both teams were able to put together sizable runs that swung the game in their favor for short bursts, but neither team could keep it going for a long enough stretch to pull away before the game’s final minutes.

Phoenix came back from seven down with three and a half minutes to play, cutting the Miami lead to just two after a huge steal from Goran Dragic and a layup in transition. The Suns had a chance to tie on a jumper from Michael Beasley, but after it seemed to be just about all the way down it rimmed out, and Bosh converted two free throws to push the lead to four.

After Sebastian Telfair missed a five-footer in the lane off the back of the iron, it was closing time for Miami. And James was the one who had the ball in his hands.

As the Heat held onto that four-point lead with under a minute to play, James dribbled down the clock above the three-point arc, before making his move and driving to the basket. He spun around Marcin Gortat as if the Suns center was standing still, and calmly laid the ball in to seal the win for his team.

What made the performance from James on this night so memorable is that the outcome of this single game in November is ultimately so forgettable. For the defending champions who will measure this season’s success based on what happens five or six months from now, James could have easily sat this one out, and no one would have thought any less of him, even if his team were to have suffered a loss.

But as we know by now, James is a special player who feels a responsibility to his teammates to be out there if at all possible — even in a relatively meaningless game taking place so early in the regular season.

“It takes a lot for me not to play, for me not to be out there with my teammates,” James said. “Me at 50 percent or 60 percent is better than me not playing at all, and I was able to get a little bit of rest this early morning and afternoon. I didn’t have much energy but I wanted to be out there on the floor with my guys, and I’m happy I was able to make a couple plays to help us win.”

  1. yousuxxors - Nov 18, 2012 at 2:42 AM

    Im a knick fan and idk how people hate this guy. If everyone worked as hard as him the nba would be a better place.

  2. chronholio - Nov 18, 2012 at 4:02 AM

    I hope the rest of the Heat were slamming echinacea to boost their immune systems. Whatever LeBo has, I wouldn’t want. Being sick is the pits.

  3. cantonbound13 - Nov 18, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    Did he also turn water into wine?

    • cullenand99 - Nov 18, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      You seem to have a very unhealthy obsession with LeBron James and/or the Miami Heat. I would suggest you mention this to your psychiatrist/psychologist so that they may help you with this problem.

  4. 1972wasalongtimeago - Nov 18, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    At this point of his career, you have to be an extra large A-Hole, with an extra small pea brain; to ever question/doubt/ridicule/debate anything regarding the Greatness of LeBron James ( see exhibit A above).

    Want to make fun of his hairline? Fine.

    But the man is a virtuoso on the court. A master. He has no weaknesses. He can do whatever he wants. He’s what everyone has always wanted/expected him to become. Maybe more.

    Just enjoy the gift we’ve all been given while we have it.

  5. 1972wasalongtimeago - Nov 18, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    By the way, will there ever be any sort of acknowledgement of the consistently stellar play of Chris Bosh?

  6. progress2011 - Nov 18, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    Watching B-Ball, I enjoy watching players with “FUNDAMENTALS”:

    1. Understanding it’s a team sport – It’s NOT a one man show, like tennis, bowling, golf etc
    2. Comprehending – that the objective is to create a shot for the open guy – as opposed to a 1 on 4 shot
    3. Focusing on defense – controlling your player and rotating to help the team defense
    4. Playing “TEAM BALL” making the offense and defense more effective by working together
    5. Unselfish play – playing within the offense as opposed to always trying to “TAKE OVER ” a game
    6. Possessing the FUNDAMENTAL skill set(s) to be able to execute ex:
    * Dribble with both hands
    * Finish with either hand
    * High percentage jumper
    * Rebounding
    * Take a defender off the dribble to penetrate into the defense / assisting

    If any “EDUCATED- NON BIAS” fan appreciates these qualities, that are the essentials of basketball, then whether you like the Heat, LBJ, Pat Riley, the city of Miami (or any other topic)….

    You gotta enjoy watching this guy play. He is the most FUNDAMENTAL player, I have EVER watched !

    PS. Jordan was the best player, scorer, clutch, super star….PERIOD !

    But LBJ and his unselfish play and his ability to guard 1-4 effectively doesn’t make him better than Jordan……..They just have different skill sets. LBJ is the best at his skill set…..EVER !
    * even though you can make a high percentage shot at anytime, passing it to the open man

  7. mikejd12 - Nov 18, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Hahahah canto bound , the number one hater is back lol hahahaha !!!

  8. rodge1 - Nov 18, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    cantonbitch13 aka Sid Rosenberg is here!… Yay! Glad to see your back on here trolling every one of LeBron’s and Miami Heat’s articles.

    • miamatt - Nov 18, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Did he/she ever leave?

  9. mrbiz8505 - Nov 18, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    LeBron spoiled us with his play again…… “eye roll”

  10. asublimeday - Nov 19, 2012 at 12:58 AM

    “Okay, you can write for PBT, but you have to blow Lebron for ANYTHING he does. Anything.”

  11. asublimeday - Nov 19, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    I can no longer tell if 1972 is being sarcastic or is an idiot.

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