LeBron James was sitting at his locker after the game, a bottle of cold medicine at his side.
The Los Angeles Lakers would be hard-pressed to believe it was needed.
James shook off flu-like symptoms to put up 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists — hours after being told to stay away from the team's shootaround practice after calling in with a cough and chest congestion — and the Miami Heat topped the Lakers 98-87 on Thursday night. Chris Bosh scored 15 for Miami, which won its second straight after a three-game slide.
"A chest cold can get to you at times," James said. "But I felt like I could help the team."
Shane Battier scored 11 and led the way defensively on Kobe Bryant. Mario Chalmers finished with 10 for Miami, which led by as many as 23 points and improved to 5-1 at home.
Miami moved to 5-0 this season without Dwyane Wade, who missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle. He missed three games earlier this season with left foot soreness.
Pau Gasol scored a season-high 26 for the Lakers, Bryant scored 24 — 14 of them coming in the fourth quarter — and Andrew Bynum finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
"We tried to adjust to some things," said Bryant, who had a four-game stretch of scoring at least 40 points earlier this month followed by a two-game total of 38 since. "We might want to go back to some of the things that we were doing a few weeks ago in terms of me being on some spots on the floor and things where I'm most comfortable."
Bryant put together a great late run to attempt a comeback, banking in a three-pointer and following that seconds later with a steal and transition dunk that got the Lakers within 94-84 with two minutes left. But Derek Fisher's three-point try on the next Los Angeles possession hit the front of the rim, Udonis Haslem controlled the rebound and James made a 15-foot runner to seal the outcome.
"They were the aggressors on both ends of the floor until the last few minutes of the game," Lakers coach Mike Brown said of the Heat. "We were aggressive the last six, seven minutes. You can't go over a 48-minute game against a team like this and allow them to be the aggressor for most of the night."
It was the first time James had gone against his former coach in Cleveland, Lakers' boss Mike Brown. At the Lakers' shootaround practice Thursday afternoon Brown said he and James had not spoken in advance of this game and didn't know if they would -- but James made sure they did, running over to the Los Angeles bench and grabbing his former coach for a long embrace and a few words.
James showed no signs of illness. In fact, he apparently felt good enough to take on two teams -- the Lakers ... and the Miami Marlins. James' momentum carried him over the sideline across from the Lakers' bench in the first half, nearly knocking over none other than Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who escaped the collision with the 265-pound two-time MVP unscathed.
The Lakers shot 31 per cent in the first half, their lowest output for any half this season. Bryant had as many field goals in the opening 24 minutes (one, on eight shots) as Heat forward Eddy Curry (1-for-1), who got his first NBA action since December 2009 when he checked in late in the first quarter for a 2 1/2-minute stint in which he made a basket, grabbed a rebound, was charged with a turnover and got a pair of loud ovations from a sellout crowd.
Miami's lead was 52-37 at the half, buoyed by eight three-pointers -- more than the Heat attempted in two December games -- and a sizzling defensive start where the Lakers were forced into missing 18 of their first 24 shots. Over a 51-minute stretch going back to late in the first half of Tuesday's game against San Antonio, the Heat had outscored the Spurs and Lakers by a whopping 137-83 margin.
There was no second-half let-up, either. James scored nine points and Bosh was 4-for-4 from the floor in the third quarter, and even with the Lakers shooting 56 per cent in the period Miami pushed its lead out to 77-56 entering the fourth.
Kevin Martin scored 27 of his 32 points in the first half, Montreal's Samuel Dalembert grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds and the Houston Rockets survived one of the worst fourth quarters in team history.
Courtney Lee scored a season-high 17 points and Kyle Lowry added 10 points and eight assists for the Rockets, who've won five in a row.
Jason Smith scored 17 points and Jarrett Jack and Marco Bellinelli added 15 points apiece for the Hornets, who've lost 12 of 13.
The Rockets led by as many as 14, but went 3-for-21 from the field and tied a franchise-record low by scoring only seven points in the final quarter.
Jack swished a baseline jumper with 3:47 left in overtime to give New Orleans its first lead, and Smith hit one from nearly the same spot to put the Hornets up 86-83.
Jack scored again before Dalembert converted a three-point play. Luis Scola sank two free throws to tie it with 1:10 remaining.
Martin picked up a loose ball with under 30 seconds left and missed a layup on a fast break, but Dalembert grabbed the rebound and dunked with 11 seconds left.
Marco Bellinelli missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, and Houston escaped to beat the Hornets for only the second time in the last eight meetings.
Shawn Marion scored a season-high 22 points, including a late layup, as the visiting Dallas Mavericks snapped a two-game losing streak and cooled off the league's hottest team.
The Mavs (9-7) were coming off back-to-back last-possession losses to the Lakers and Clippers.
The Jazz (9-5) lost at home for only the second time all season, and second time in 10 games overall.
The Jazz were down by 13 in the second quarter and by 11 in the third before rallying.
Utah led by three early in the fourth after a dunk by C.J. Miles. The game was tied at 87 before Jason Terry hit a three-pointer, and Marion a layup.
Al Jefferson led Utah with 22 points.