Skip to content

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.”

Latest Posts
  1. Team USA going small ball, but how many bigs do they keep on the bench?

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Mike Krzyzewski Mike Krzyzewski

    “Everyone talks about match-ups (with big teams such as Spain), people have to match-up against us, too.” — USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

  2. Report: LeBron James more popular than he ever was with the Heat

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    LeBron still not as popular as prior to The Decision, though. It’s only a matter of time until he is.

  3. Dion Waiters explains tweet saying he wouldn’t accept bench role

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:30 AM EDT

    2013 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day 2013 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

    Cavaliers guard says initial response stemmed from his straightforward approach, confidence

  4. NBA considering charity All-Star game in South Africa

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT

    Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela

    Collective Bargaining Agreement limits offseason charity games to United States and Canada

  5. Report: Gregg Popovich had hip-replacement surgery

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    Popovich signed contract extension with Spurs this offseason

  6. Durant says 2014 USA team better than 2010 version that won gold

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT

    Image (1) durant_usa_fun-thumb-250x159-20234.jpg for post 4140

    “That 2010 team was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think we have a team that’s even better.” —Kevin Durant

  7. Report: Magic signing Peyton Siva to unguaranteed contract

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic

    Orlando reportedly plans to send former Pistons point guard to D-League

  8. Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about his free agency but isn’t giving many clues. He liked what LeBron did.

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:51 PM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    “I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, I love it here. Who knows what will happen.” —Kevin Durant on his 2016 free agency.

  9. Report: Eric Bledsoe-Suns ‘relationship is on the express lane to being ruined’

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT

    Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic

    Bledsoe reportedly resents how differently Pistons, Jazz and Rockets treated their restricted free agents

  10. Report: Mike Scott considering ‘lucrative’ offer to play in Russia

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:22 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Indiana Pacers - Game Seven Getty Images

    CSKA-Moscow wants to poach Scott from Atlanta Hawks

  11. Mavericks sign Ivan Johnson

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks

    Johnson gets NBA contract after eventful summer league

  12. Report: Timberwolves told Kevin Love to sit out the World Cup

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Kevin Love Kevin Love

    I’m not sure Love is taking advice from Minnesota right now

  13. Byron Scott makes ridiculous optimism sound reasonable

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Byron Scott Getty Images

    Lakers introduce Scott as new coach in press conference

  14. Derrick Rose told Carmelo Anthony that if he came to Chicago “the game would be easy”

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    Rose said he was disappointed but he understands ‘Melo’s decision.

  15. LeBron James strips on stage, throws clothes into crowd (video)

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    LeBron James LeBron James

    Want to see LeBron strip down to his underwear?

  16. Steve Nash: ‘I think this is my last season’

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    Steve Nash, Meta World Peace Steve Nash, Meta World Peace

    Lakers guard confirms he’s planning on retirement

  17. PBT Extra: Is this the end of Donald Sterling as NBA owner?

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:11 PM EDT

    Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

    Donald Sterling isn’t going away, but he’s pretty much done as the Clippers owner now.

  18. Grizzlies name general manager Chris Wallace general manager

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Yes, you read that headline correctly

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. T. Warren (4895)
  2. L. James (4325)
  3. K. Love (3701)
  4. D. Rose (3324)
  5. R. Allen (3107)
  1. J. Nelson (3028)
  2. C. Anthony (2977)
  3. K. Bryant (2748)
  4. A. Aminu (2120)
  5. C. Boozer (2042)