MIAMI, Florida, January 20 – Ailing LeBron James scored 31 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 98-87 NBA victory over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hours after he was sent home from the morning shoot-around because of flu-like symptoms, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player James rose to the occasion in the clash with the Lakers and their superstar.
“I just wanted to be there for my teammates,” James said.
“There were a few times I felt exhausted,” he added. “A chest cold can get to you at times. I didn’t feel like myself this morning.”
The victory also gave James his first win against new Lakers coach Mike Brown, who coached him for five seasons in Cleveland.
James also delivered eight assists with eight rebounds to help the Heat overcome the absence of Dwyane Wade, still nursing a sprained right ankle.
Wade was hurt in a defeat at Denver last week and will be out indefinitely.
Chris Bosh scored 15 points and Shane Battier added 11 for Miami, who had lost the last three games of a road trip before returning home to beat San Antonio on Tuesday.
Bryant was limited to 1-of-8 shooting in the first half, warming up in the second to finish with 24 points on 8-of-21 shooting.
As a team, the Lakers shot 42 percent.
Despite their star power, James downplayed the match-up between himself and Bryant.
“It’s never been between me and Kobe,” James said. “I’ve been in this league long enough that I don’t have to prove anything to Kobe, and he doesn’t have to prove anything to me.”
Spain’s Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 26 and Andrew Bynum chipped in 15.
But they had no answer after the Heat took charge in the second quarter, when Miami out-scored the visitors 27-17.
“They were the aggressors on both ends of the floor, up until the last minute of the game,” Brown said. “We were aggressive in the last six or seven minutes of the game.
“You can’t go through a 48-minute game against a team like this and allow them to be aggressive for most of the night.”