If LeBron James had the flu on Thursday night, then Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra just might ask his All-Star forward if he could remain sick for the balance of the NBA season. James had been sent home by Spoelstra earlier on Thursday after he displayed flu-like symptoms during the club’s shootaround. The former NBA MVP looked in fine shape as his team hosted the Los Angeles Lakers as he scored a game high 31 points leading the Heat to a 98-87 victory. Miami won the game despite playing without guard Dwyane Wade who was on the bench nursing a sore right ankle.
Miami had a double-digit lead at the half and then put even more distance between themselves and their opponent in the third quarter. Los Angeles made a torrid run in the final 12 minutes of play; however they were too deep in the hole to extricate themselves. Pau Gasol was the high scorer for the Lakers with 26 points while Kobe Bryant added 24 points in the loss.
The Heat appeared ready to run away with the game when Shane Battier drained a 25 foot trey with 2:31 left in the opening period to give his team a 21-13 advantage. Los Angeles would close the gap but James knocked down an outside jumper at the buzzer to put Miami on top 25-20 at the conclusion of the quarter. The Lakers offense was stuck in neutral during the second and their hosts took full advantage of the situation. Battier would bury a 24 foot trey with 46 seconds to play and as the contest reached the half Miami held the upper hand with the score 52-37.
Los Angeles came back to the floor for the third, however they still had not recovered their shooting touch. Heat center Joel Anthony threw up a shot three feet from the hoop with all zeroes on the clock and his team was in charge of a 77-56 affair. Los Angeles finally awoke from their coma-like state in the fourth and were able to cut their deficit to ten points late in the period. However it was too little too late and the Heat held on for their second straight win.
James scored 31 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks while Chris Bosh had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Battier added 11 points, 6 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal while Mario Chalmers put up 10 points, 6 assists and 1 steal.
Gasol knocked down 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a block for the night. Bryant scored 24 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals while Andrew Bynum notched a double-double with 15 points, 12 boards, 2 assists and 2 blocks. Miami improves to 10-4 and will host the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday while Los Angeles now has a record of 10-6 and head to Orlando to face the Magic on Friday.