Hours before game time, LeBron James let it be known just how horribly sick he felt.
Early Saturday morning, James tweeted a picture of himself hiding inside a hooded sweatshirt. His eyes looked bleary, and he complained of a headache and a “dancing stomach.”
On Saturday night, James danced around the Suns despite his flu-like symptoms. Miami defeated Phoenix 97-88 to finished 4-2 on its extended road trip. Saturday was the Heat’s fifth game in seven nights.
“It takes a lot for me not to play and for me not to be out there with my teammates,” James said. “Me at 50 percent or me at 60 percent is better than me not playing at all, so I was able to get a little rest early this morning and in the afternoon. I didn’t have much energy, but I wanted to be out on the floor with my guys.”
James had 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists after going scoreless in the first quarter. He scored his first basket with 9:04 left in the second quarter. James was too sick to eat Friday and only Saturday morning was he able to keep down Gatorade.
Chris Bosh led the Heat with 24 points, going 9 of 11 from the field. He also had nine rebounds and three assists. The Heat shot 53.5 percent from the field and was 8 of 19 from three-point range.
Bosh has played well against the Suns throughout his career. His 23.1-points-per-game average against the Suns before Saturday was his best scoring average against any team other than the Bobcats (24.0).
“A lot of times, teams can have breakdowns on a trip, especially when things don’t go your way early,” said Bosh, who anchored the Heat offensively throughout its six-game road trip. “But we stayed with it. Nobody panicked, nobody got beside themselves. We just stuck with the game plan and stuck with each other, and it worked out.”
Udonis Haslem checked out of the game one rebound shy of tying Alonzo Mourning for the Heat’s rebounding record (4,807). Haslem had six rebounds and will likely tie or break Mourning’s record in the Heat’s home game against the Bucks on Wednesday.
Shane Battier turned in another scorching-hot performance. He was 4 of 8 from three-point range for 12 points. In his past two games, Battier is 10 of 15 from beyond the arc. He had three three-pointers in the first quarter, allowing the Heat to overcome a sloppy start. The score was tied 23-23 after the first period and 52-52 at halftime.
The Heat raced ahead in the third quarter, with the highlight of the night coming amid the Heat’s 14-2 run in the period. The alley-oop from Mike Miller to James gave the Heat a 63-56 lead.
Miller tossed the high-arching lob from near midcourt. It cleared several defenders and found James in midflight. Battier followed the alley-oop with his fourth three-pointer of the game. A three-pointer by James gave the Heat a 13-point lead with 3:41 left in the third quarter.
The Suns tied the score at 79-79 with 8:38 left on a putback layup by Markieff Morris. But the Heat then distanced itself with a 9-0 run. James’ reverse dunk on a fast break put the Heat ahead 88-79 with 5:30 remaining.
The Suns wouldn’t go away though. A three-pointer by Sebastian Telfair cut the Heat’s lead to four, and plucky guard Goran Dragic forced a turnover and scored on a driving layup in transition to pull Phoenix within a basket at 90-88.
Bosh’s free throws with 1:26 left gave the Heat a four-point lead, and Telfair missed a five-footer with a minute left. James iced the game on the Heat’s next possession, spinning past Suns center Marcin Gortat for a layup.
James looked ill before the game, bending his head between his knees on the court and grimacing moments before the opening tip. He went to the locker room during a timeout in the first quarter and went scoreless in the period. His only statistics were a rebound and a turnover.
The Heat played like James felt in the first quarter. Miami had seven turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game.
Morris led the Suns with 16 points off the bench. Michael Beasley had 14 points on 7-of-17 shooting to go along with eight rebounds.