THE FACTS: The Miami Heat didn't have Dwyane Wade, LeBron James was sick, they were finishing a six-game trip, and were playing their fifth game in seven nights. They still had enough to hold off the Phoenix Suns Saturday night, 97-88, in Arizona.
James missed the shoot-around, a rarity for him, Saturday morning, "So when he missed today that makes you wonder, and you know it's pretty serious," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We appreciate him even playing and giving us his presence.
"Even though he wasn't himself, he still had a spectacular game, and his presence was important for us." Then, James felt sick after playing a few early minutes; he returned to the visitor's locker room to take in more fluids. "I didn't have much energy, but I wanted to be out there with my guys," James said.
Chris Bosh hit 9-for-11 for 24 points, and added nine rebounds to lead the Heat (8-3). James came alive late and finsihed with 21 points and seven boards.
Markieff Morris led the Suns (4-7) with 16 points. Goran Dragic had 12 points, eight assists, four steals and just two turnovers.
With the Suns missing layups and turning the ball over, the Heat broke to a 9-0 lead in the first four minutes. Dragic, outplaying the Heat's point guards, led the Suns back into the game. Then a lineup of Sebastian Telfair, Shannon Brown, Michael Beasley and big men Morris and Jermaine O'Neal actually pulled the Suns into a lead, before the teams settled for a 52-52 halftime tie. The Heat outscored the Suns 18-6 to start the second half to take a 70-58 lead, but the Suns, led by the backup Morris, once again battled back to tie the game 79-79 early in the fourth quarter.
James led the Heat on a decisive 9-0 run early to give them an 88-79 lead. The Suns once again fought back. They trailed just 90-88 after a steal and layup by Dragic with 2:11 left. They would have tied the game but Beasley's jumper went half-way down, then spun out. Then Bosh hit two free throws and James drove to the hole. The Heat had finished a 4-2 road trip.
"It's been a good trip," James judged.
QUOTABLE: "It takes a lot for me not to play. Me being at 50 or 60 percent is better than me not playing at all."
-- Heat's LeBron James
THE STAT: The Heat shook off 19 turnovers by hitting 54 percent of their shots.
TURNING POINT: Not long after James re-entered the game to start the fourth quarter. Moments later, the Heat broke a 79-79 tie on a Ray Allen drive, Then James scored on a fast-break layup off a Mario Chalmers' steal of a Telfair pass. Then Chalmers hit a 3-pointer, then James stole a Beasley pass and scored on a spectacular reverse slam. The 9-0 run gave the Heat an 88-79 lead.
QUOTABLE II: "Exhausted."
-- Heat's LeBron James, asked how he felt as the media crush around started to melt away after the game.
FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Now that O'Neal has been dusted off by the Suns, and Morris has seemed to recover from his terrible start, the Suns have more depth up front. It also means that Marcin Gortat, who has cooled off from his great start, and Luis Scola are getting fewer minutes. In this one, Scola missed three layups while shooting 1-for-5 for three points, and he had just one rebound in nearly 15 minutes.
NOTABLE: The Heat's Udonis Haslem is two rebounds away from taking the franchise lead in rebounding over Alonzo Mourning (4,807). He would become the first undrafted player to lead a franchise in rebounding. In describing a player with great intangibles, Spoelstra said you draw up a list of qualities, or, "You could show a picture of Udonis Haslem."
UP NEXT: For the Heat, Wednesday vs. Milwaukee, Saturday vs. Cleveland and Thursday, Nov. 29 vs. San Antonio. For the Suns, Wednesday vs. Portland, Friday vs. New Orleans and Sunday Nov. 25 @ Philadelphia.