The South Beach crowd erupted when Lebron James was accidently kicked in the face as the Miami Heat were defeated 96-89 in their final preseason tune-up against the New Orleans Hornets.
Chris Bosh finished the preseason strong, leading Miami with 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Lebron James had 19 points, 8 rebounds and handed out four assists in the losing effort. Rookie Anthony Davis and his unibrow had a strong showing matched up against the smaller Shane Battier for most of the night. Davis, 19, was the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, and led the way for New Orleans with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
But the story everyone was buzzing about was James’ injury plagued night.
Lebron had a shaky night to say the least, spraining his ankle early in the first quarter but fought through the pain until he was accidentally kicked in the face on a drive to the rim by Hornets’ center Robin Lopez late in the third quarter.
“That’s a first,” said James.
James was not the only player to suffer a sprained ankle; Hornets’ rookie guard Austin Rivers amassed only six points before spraining his ankle for the second time in four days. The biggest surprise for the Hornets was not actually defeating the defending champions in South Beach, but rather point guard Greivis Vasquez, who had a marvelous game with 18 points and 10 assists.
The game was tied at 47 by halftime, but the Hornets outplayed the Heat without James in the fourth quarter and outscored the Heat 15-8 in the final eight minutes.
Solid contributions from other key players have become second nature for the Heat. Dwyane Wade fished with 15 points, playing 32 minutes, the most this preseason and his knee seems to be holding up just fine leading into the season opener. For the sharpshooting specialists, Mike Miller added 11 points and nine rebounds and Ray Allen had 13 points, knocking down two three pointers with that silky smooth stroke. But Miami struggled shooting only 38-percent from the field and were also outrebounded by six, a rarity this preseason.
The Heat also released Rodney Carney, leaving Garrett Temple and Terrel Harris, neither of which played tonight, in a toss-up for the last roster spot.
Miami will open the 2012-2013 season on Tuesday October 30, at home in a rematch of the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship against the Boston Celtics. The “chosen one” will officially be crowned during the pregame ceremony as the Heat players will receive their championship rings and a championship banner will be raised to the rafters of American Airlines Arena.