The game wasn’t exactly out of reach for the Utah Jazz late in the third quarter of last night’s game, and yet you had the feeling the growing lead from the Miami Heat was only going to get bigger. LeBron James had been playing comfortably all night, already ascending to a near triple-double stat line, when something unexplainable happened. As with so many freak injuries in the league, James turned his ankle on a non-contact play simply by dribbling up the court.
As James approached the Heat’s bench, he slammed his fists into a stack of towels, and its sound resonated all throughout the American Airlines Arena. James knew that this turned ankle could become a lingering injury that could plague the Heat in the form of notches in the loss column. James decided to come back into the game anyways during the fourth quarter and finished with an assist and rebound shy of a triple double. Following the game, James told ESPN:
“It can’t get no worse by playing. It gets worse if you sit there and you let it get stiff. That’s when it gets worse. I was excited I could go back out there and make some plays, finish the game off.”
As exciting as it may have been to watch the reigning MVP come back in to play, it blows my mind that the training staff allowed James to return with the game well in hand, especially with a hot-handed Dwyane Wade leading the charge alongside Chris Bosh. Maintenance has seemed to be the theme for the Heat this season as multiple players have sat out to rest throughout the course of the season, so the choice to continue to play James goes against everything the training and coaching staff have been working so hard for this year. James is by far the Heat’s most valuable player, so making sure he stays healthy has to be a top priority. The NBA nation takes for granted just how healthy and consistent James has been since he entered the league. Hopefully the Heat’s training and coaching staff wont take his sustainability for granted anymore.
James will most likely play on Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers, but that turned ankle could be the cause of poor play for him throughout long stretches of the game. Hopefully he will have support from the remainder of the Big Three and the extremely deep Heat bench. If not, the Heat could be looking at a second loss to the Pacers this season, further widening the gap between both teams in the standings.
Jared Doyle is a Miami Heat writer for RantSports.com.
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