LeBron James under the weather is better than no LeBron James at all.
That was James’ thinking when he decided to play despite flu-like symptoms, and he scored 21 points to help the depleted Miami Heat close out a six-game road trip with a 97-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.
“Me at 50 percent or 60 percent is better than me not playing at all," he said.
The Heat, playing without Dwyane Wade for the second game in a row because of a left foot injury, led by as many as 15 in the third quarter and were up by nine with 5½ minutes to play. The Suns cut it to two before Miami scored the game’s final seven points.
Chris Bosh scored 24 points on nine-of-11 shooting for the Heat.
James, who missed the morning shootaround, made only eight of 20 shots but still reached 20 points for the 11th time in 11 games this season. In the first quarter, he went to the locker room, where he said he got sick, then received some fluids that helped.
“I can’t remember the last time he missed practice or a shootaround so when he missed today, obviously that makes you wonder and you know that it’s pretty serious," coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We knew yesterday that he hadn’t had any food and he went the whole day and in the late afternoon he was able to down some Gatorade, but that was about it."
Markieff Morris scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half for Phoenix, which was coming off a loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night. Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley had 14 points apiece.
James may have been sick, but he had enough energy to lead the final surge that lifted Miami to its fifth straight win in Phoenix.
“I set my shooters up as much as possible," he said, “but if the game is close down the stretch I feel like I can make plays individually, to help us win."
Morris’ tip-in with 8:39 to go tied it at 79, but Ray Allen banked in an 8-footer, Brown was called for an offensive foul, and Mario Chalmers stole the ball from Sebastian Telfair, leading to James’ fast-break layup. The Heat were off on a 9-0 run, capped by James’ reverse dunk with 5½ minutes to go.
Phoenix then rallied again, closing to 90-88 with 2:11 remaining before the Heat held the Suns off down the stretch.
Also on Saturday:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mike Conley scored 20 points and Memphis beat Charlotte for its eighth consecutive victory. Zach Randolph added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Grizzlies.
LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin scored 12 of his 26 points in the final six minutes and grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Clippers earn their fifth straight victory. Reserve Jamal Crawford scored 17 of his 22 points in the second quarter for L.A., which leads the Pacific Division with a 7-2 mark.
SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili had 20 points and the Spurs set a season high for points. DeJuan Blair added 19 points and Danny Green had 15 for San Antonio (8-2).
MILWAUKEE — Monta Ellis scored six of his 22 points in the final two minutes to help Milwaukee hold off New Orleans. Brandon Jennings also had 22 points, and Mike Dunleavy added 17 for Milwaukee, which improved to 6-2 in its best start since 2001-02. Top overall draft pick Anthony Davis had a season-high 28 points and tied his season high with 11 rebounds for New Orleans.
BOSTON — Rajon Rondo tied his season high with 20 assists, and Jason Terry scored 20 points to help Boston get the victory. Rondo appeared at full strength after sitting out a loss at Brooklyn on Thursday night because of a sprained right ankle.
CLEVELAND — O.J. Mayo scored 19 points and Dallas used a pair of 9-0 runs in the fourth quarter to secure the road win.
WASHINGTON — Al Jefferson scored 21 points, Gordon Hayward added 15 in his first game as a reserve this season, and Utah kept Washington winless.