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Heat 97, Suns 88

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Miami's Chris Bosh scored 24 points, and a flu-ridden LeBron James added 21, including the clinching basket in the final minute, as the Heat held off a pair of fourth-quarter rallies Saturday to beat the Phoenix Suns for the fifth straight time, 97-88.

James, whose participation was a game-time decision after he came down with the flu Friday, missed 12 of his 20 shots from the field overall and didn't score for the first 15 minutes of play. However, his twisting layup with 45.2 seconds left gave the Heat a 94-88 lead and took all the steam out of the Suns.

Shane Battier scored all 12 of his points on 3-pointers, and Mario Chalmers added 11 points for the Heat.

Markieff Morris had 14 of his 16 points in the second half, including seven straight late in the third quarter, to rally the Suns from a 15-point deficit. Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley added 14 apiece for Phoenix, which got 51 of its points from the reserves on a night when the starters had little to offer.

The Heat appeared to take control of the game midway through the third quarter. James, Battier and Mike Miller all hit 3-pointers during a 19-4 burst, with a steal and layup by Norris Cole giving Miami a 75-60 lead.

But with all five Phoenix starters on the bench, the Suns' reserves closed the quarter with 11 straight points, the first seven by Morris. Two Sebastian Telfair free throws with 8.4 seconds left pulled Phoenix within 75-71 at quarter's end. A Morris 3-pointer cut the Miami lead to 77-76 before another Morris jumper tied it at 79.

Suns coach Alvin Gentry stuck with his reserves, but they ran out of gas. Miami scored the next eight points, with a Chalmers 3-pointer and a James layup off a Bosh feed capping the run. Phoenix pushed back within two points on a Goran Dragic steal and layup with 2:12 left, but James followed two Bosh free throws with his dagger to end it.

The game got off to a sloppy start -- the Suns couldn't shoot straight and the Heat didn't take care of the ball. Phoenix missed their first nine shots from the field, fell behind 9-0 and didn't score until Luis Scola hit the second of two free throws with 7:46 left in the first quarter -- earning a Bronx cheer from the crowd.

Despite nine points from Battier, the Heat couldn't turn the cold streak into big lead, because they committed nine turnovers in the first 11 minutes and allowed the Suns to regroup. Dragic had eight points and four assists and Beasley tied the game at 18 on a layin with 2:33 left. Battier's third three-pointer of the quarter, a 28-foot bomb with 1.4 seconds left, left the teams even at 23.

James, who took only two shots in the first quarter, hit his first field goal on a 16-foot jumper with 9:04 left in the half. The Suns left by six at 37-31 on Jermaine O'Neal's jumper at 8:09, but the Heat responded with a 13-3 with Bosh scoring 10 of his 16 first-half points in the quarter.

Brown answered for Phoenix with 10 points in the quarter himself, including a 19-footer with 30.3 seconds left that sent the teams to intermission tied at 52.

NOTES: Entering their final meeting of the season with the Heat, the Suns had beaten the defending NBA champion at least once in eight of the last nine seasons. Phoenix's 2009-10 team was swept in two games by the defending champion Celtics ... Dwyane Wade remains out with a sprained left foot and a jammed finger. ... The Heat play only twice over an 11-day span beginning Sunday ... The Suns came into the game ranked third in the NBA in offensive rebounding (14.4 points a game), leading to 15.3 second-chance points a night. ... One reason James might have wanted to overcome the flu Saturday? He came in averaging 28.7 points a game in his career against the Suns.

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