MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James twisted his right ankle, got kicked in the face and missed two dunks. Austin Rivers sprained his right ankle for the second time in four days, falling backward in highly awkward fashion.
An angst-laden game that didn’t matter, for certain.
Rookie Anthony Davis had 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 96-89 victory over the Miami Heat in the preseason finale for both teams on Friday night. The much-bigger news, however, was that each club thought it came away from some scary moments relatively unscathed.
James shrugged off his pain-filled night, which ended with 2:18 left in the third quarter after he got inadvertently kicked in the face by Robin Lopez as they jostled for a rebound. Rivers told his team that he wanted to return moments after his frightening tumble.
“Yeah, I feel this game,” James said. “Took a foot to the face, sprained my ankle first drive of the game, missed eight layups. I’ve had better nights.”
Rivers’ issue at first looked quite serious. The No. 10 overall pick out of Duke in this year’s draft did not return after his ankle injury, one where he initially couldn’t put any weight on that side, then walked to the Hornets’ locker room gingerly but without assistance.
X-rays weren’t deemed necessary, but further evaluation was scheduled for Saturday.
“When I see him go down like that, you always think the worst,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “He’s been able to come back from these kinds of injuries before. He’s walking around. He’s in the locker room. He wanted to come back into the game. … Just glad he’s OK.”
Chris Bosh led Miami with 21 points and 10 rebounds. James scored 19 points and Dwyane Wade finished with 15 on 7 for 19 shooting for the Heat, who shot only 38 percent and were outrebounded 45-39.
Greivis Vasquez scored 18 points, Ryan Anderson added 17, Al-Farouq Aminu finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Lopez scored 11 for the Hornets.
Both teams finished the preseason with 4-4 records.
“Good training camp,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve been able to accomplish a lot of things.”
Miami opens defense of its NBA title at home on Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics — the team the Heat needed seven games to oust in a classic Eastern Conference finals last spring. The Hornets open Wednesday, playing host to the San Antonio Spurs.
Neither team led by more than six points for the first 47-plus minutes — not until Anderson’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds left gave the Hornets a 94-86 lead, all but sealing the outcome.
“We grew up tonight,” Williams said.
It should have counted as two victories for the Hornets — one on the floor, the other with the news that Rivers seemed fine.
He was cutting on the left wing and seemed to make contact with Miami guard Norris Cole, who also grimaced and fell over on the play. Rivers said earlier in the week that he intended to be ready for the season opener — and the Hornets even had him in the starting lineup Friday night, satisfied that the ankle injury from an awkward landing on a layup attempt against Dallas on Monday night was sufficiently healed.
James went out after he and Lopez got tangled under a basket. As they both started to fall, one of Lopez’s legs sailed up — and his foot met James’ face.
“That’s a first,” James said.
Earlier Friday, the Heat got their roster down to 16 players — one over the maximum to start the season — by waiving forwards Rodney Carney and Jarvis Varnado. Carney averaged 6.8 points in five preseason games. Varnado didn’t appear in any preseason games because of injury issues.
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