The Miami Heat didn’t have LeBron James at the end of Thursday night’s game against the Thunder, but thanks to his dominating play in the first three-plus quarters, Miami didn’t really need him.
James left Thursday’s game – Miami rolled the Thunder 103-81 – after sustaining a broken nose from a hard hit by Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka while driving to the hoop.
After the game, James – who scored a game-high 33 points – had rolls of gauze stuffed up both nostrils with white towels covering his face.
The Heat flew back to Miami immediately following Thursday’s win and was diagnosed Friday with a broken nose.
Coach Erik Spoelstra looked upset in the direct aftermath of the play, understandable since James means so much to the Heat on both sides of the court.
Afterward, however, Spoelstra looked like a guy who definitely felt better about things.
The Heat returns to practice Saturday, and James’ status for Sunday’s home game – Miami’s first at home since Feb. 3 – against Chicago will be a game-time decision.
James might have to wear a protective mask (he wore a mask briefly during the 2004-05 season with Cleveland after sustaining a broken left cheekbone).
“He passed the [concussion] tests,” Spoelstra said.
WADE’S SOLID PERFORMANCE
Perhaps lost in the saga surrounding James’ nose injury was the play of Dwyane Wade.
Wade scored 24 points against the Thunder and showed quickness and an agility that prompted Spoelstra to say, “That looked like the old Dwyane.”
Although James scored Miami’s first 12 points against the Thunder, Wade got himself going on a breakaway dunk to give the Heat a 14-6 advantage.
Of Miami’s 15 steals, Wade had three – his most since Jan. 2 against Golden State. Wade’s 24 points were most for him since scoring 30 against Detroit on Feb. 3 and his sixth-highest total of the season.
“I just felt good tonight and was able to get to the places I wanted to,” said Wade, who added seven rebounds and 10 assists. “I was reading the defense pretty good. I wanted to mix it up, be aggressive offensively.”
Spoelstra is accustomed to answering questions about Wade and his troublesome knees.
Before missing two games during this road trip with a migraine and foot numbness, Wade had missed 13 games to rest knees that have given him problems over the past few postseasons.
When he has played, though, Wade has put up strong numbers this season.
Now in his 11th season with the Heat, Wade goes into Sunday’s game averaging 18.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists. But the most impressive stat: He’s shooting a career-high 55.1 percent from the field.
“It’s unfortunate at the end of the last trip that he missed games,” Spoelstra said. “That was a lightning rod, like ‘What’s up with Dwyane?’ His knees and his legs were feeling great, then he had the migraine and the foot ailment.”
A SUCCESSFUL TRIP
Thursday’s win was an exclamation point on a successful 5-1 road trip for the Heat.
Miami opened the trip with a win in Los Angeles against the Clippers on Feb. 5 and added wins at Phoenix, Golden State, Dallas and Oklahoma City.
Yet Spoelstra wonders what could have been for the Heat on this trip.
“It’s nice to finish it this way,” Spoelstra said with a sly grin. “But I have a sick mind. I’m still thinking about [losing to] Utah. It was a great business mentality. We could have come up with excuses. … Instead, the guys laced up their shoes and went to work.”• The Heat is 17-4 against the Western Conference this season, including 10-2 against the top eight. Miami also has losses to non-playoff teams Sacramento and Utah – both on the road.
• Miami is 29-2 this season when holding opponents under 100 points.