“I think the flu hit every single one of our guys and most of the staff at some point,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The lineup was shuffled, with Shane Battier stepping back into the starting five for the first time since the Heat’s victory over Cleveland on Nov. 24.
Miami played with a size disadvantage already last week, beating the towering Minnesota Timberwolves. With Bosh out, LeBron James took over tip-off duties and led the 6-8 frontcourt of Battier and Udonis Haslem.
“[Utah] is a top-five [team] in rebounding, that’s what they do,” Dwyane Wade said. “We’re not going to shut them out from rebounding the basketball, but we’ve got to do a better job, especially earlier in the game of trying to put bodies on them.”
With 5:33 left in the game, the Heat was even with the Jazz in rebounds at 32. Miami finished with a 39-38 advantage.
The great ones have a special kind of discipline, an intelligence for reading the court better than everyone else and athleticism that transcends even the most elite athletes. Sometimes, they even get really lucky.
James is riding two contradictory streaks: He has scored at least 20 points in the first 24 games of the season, matching Karl Malone’s run to open the 1989-90 season.
November’s Player of the Month was also without a foul in almost 25 quarters until being called for a heated technical with 32.2 seconds remaining in the second quarter Saturday night. Technically, he’s still going on the personal foul-less train.
The last time James was whistled for a foul came on a charging call against the New Orleans Hornets on Dec.8, his second of that game, at the very end of the first quarter.
“Oh yeah, I remember that play. That was my last foul?” James asked at the morning shootaround. “I always try to be proactive, never reactive [and] put myself in the right position where I don’t have to commit a foul.”
Beyond that, he is everywhere he needs to be, and often it doesn’t mean he focuses solely on scoring. Spoelstra said that James’ basketball IQ allows him to be a few steps ahead and early enough to avoid foul situations.
“I could lead the league in scoring, but that’s not my job here,” James said. “My job is to do a little bit or a lot of everything in rebounding, passing [and] defending.”
By the end of the third period, James was flirting with his second triple-double in less than three weeks, with 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Christmas in miami
Before the Heat hits the road for four games, it will don a special red uniform Christmas Day when it hosts Oklahoma City. The Heat will clock in for work while families around the country enjoy the NBA’s showcase.
“It’s great, it’s amazing, it’s unbelievable,” Wade said in good humor before giving his real answer.
“You never want to take anything for granted. I’ve been playing on Christmas a lot; I’m fine with that. But that back-to-back [games] after Christmas, that [stinks].”
After Tuesday’s Christmas show, Wade will have spent eight of his past 10 on the basketball court. On Wednesday, the Heat hits the road for that four-game trip, beginning with a stop in Charlotte.
“I think it’s great for the fans having those games,” James said. “But for us, as family men, Christmas is a day that we would love to spend with our family.”
Regardless of what day of the week it is, James’ love of the game trumps the feelings of missing out on the most wonderful time of the year.
“I’m not saying I’m overjoyous about playing on Christmas,” he said. “I will be excited once I get out on the floor, and people will see that.”