What is it about the "flu-like symptoms" game? Why does it seem that every time a player takes the court despite those nasty "flu-like symptoms" they always seem to have a big game?
Whatever the reason, the latest in a long line of "flu-like symptom" heroes is LeBron James. James missed Miami's shootaround earlier in the day with a cough and congestion, and then led the Heat to a 98-87 thrashing of the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night. James scored 31 points, grabbed eight rebounds, handed out eight assists, gathered four steals and blocked three shots, leading his team in each of those statistical categories. One wonders what he might have done had he felt better.
As dominant as James was, it was Miami's defense that was the determining factor in this game. The Heat held the Lakers to 37 points in the first half, 56 through three quarters. They held Kobe Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer, to just 10 points through three, and by the time Kobe and the Lakers got something going in the fourth, the hole was too deep. Kobe scored 14 of the Lakers 31 fourth quarter points, but they entered the period down 21 and were unable to get closer than 10 down the stretch. It was a valiant comeback effort by L.A. - and perhaps a bit foolhardy, as they ultimately lost the game, and now have to face Orlando a night after Bryant (41 minutes), Pau Gasol (37) and Andrew Bynum (37) logged heavy minutes in this loss.
The Heat improved to 5-0 without Dwyane Wade, who missed the game with a sprained ankle. It's not as if the Heat are better without Wade, but in some ways it's clearer for the team -- everyone knows it's LeBron's show. Besides, against the Lakers, getting Shane Battier into the starting lineup to defend Bryant is not a bad strategy. Battier chipped in on offense as well with 11 points, and Chris Bosh had 14.
Gasol led the Lakers with a season-high 26 efficient points, but other than Pau nothing was coming easy for the Lakers. L.A. was also again betrayed by its lack of depth. Their big three combined to score 65 points-- while the remaining eight Lakers managed just 22.
Tonight the Lakers appeared to be nowhere near Miami's class. That's because they're not. The Heat are deeper, more athletic and unlike the Lakers have players who can make outside shots. It only took them a quarter and change to open a double-digit lead and make it all too obvious they'd be winning this one.
The game marked the season debut for the Heat for Eddy Curry, who played in his first NBA game in over two years. Curry, who has reportedly lost something in the neighborhood of 70 pounds, looked positively svelte as compared to his former self, and put up a more than respectable six points and three rebounds in six minutes.
With the win the Heat improved to 10-4, 5-1 at home. The Lakers meanwhile dropped to 10-6, 1-5 on the road.