Lakers Fall to LeBron James, Heat in Contested Miami Battle
On Sunday the Lakers made their annual trip to Miami to take on the reigning NBA Champions. A win against the Heat would complete a successful Grammy trip at five wins and two losses. Winning in South Beach, however, is a daunting task for any team because the Heat boast a 21-3 home record. The Lakers will again be missing Pau Gasol but Dwight Howard would play.
A slow start for the Lakers would certainly mean a loss, as the team needed to find a way to limit LeBron James from reaching his astronomical season averages. The Lakers started with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, and Dwight Howard. The Lakers began with Metta World Peace guarding LeBron. The game got off to a bad start for the Lakers who gave up east buckets to Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem.
The first bucket for L.A. came on a layup from World Peace. As the shots weren’t falling on offense, the Lakers had problems giving up penetration to Miami’s guards. Kobe got his first assist when he found Nash for an open jumper but LeBron responded with a strong drive to the basket.
Kobe got his first bucket on a layup after a beautiful spin move to pull the Lakers within one. The Lakers then responded and took their first lead in a chippy game when Kobe found Nash under the basket. Fouls were going to be a problem, however, as the Lakers picked up their fourth team foul with still seven minutes to go. A beautiful fade away from Kobe capped a 7-0 run as the Lakers led eleven to eight. As the ball continued to move, Dwight Howard got his first points from the line with five minutes to go. LeBron responded with his first field goal while Antawn Jamison entered the game and chipped in a free throw of his own.
By the end of the first quarter, the Lakers had a 26-25 lead in Miami despite LeBron’s spectacular shooting.
The Lakers would need to count on their bench to keep this game close, and could not afford a large run from the Heat that could act as a knockout punch. The bench got off to a great start when Jodie Meeks nailed a corner three then forced a turnover on the defensive end. As Miami instituted full court pressure to trap Steve Blake, the Lakers continued to beat it. Dwyane Wade did heat up for Miami, however and the two teams were soon knotted up at 31. A thunderous dunk from Dwight Howard for his first field goal gave the Lakers the lead back. An athletic three point play from Earl Clark allowed the Lakers to stretch the lead back to five with Kobe and Nash getting a rest.
The Lakers got their largest lead of the game at seven as Dwight Howard continued to attack Chris Bosh while the Heat also attacked the paint. With six minutes to go, Steve Nash and World Peace returned as did LeBron for the Heat. A little flip shot in the lane from Jamison continued Laker domination from the inside but the Lakers themselves could not contain Wade and LeBron. Kobe made just his second shot of the game with four minutes to go, as LeBron and the Heat soon had the Laker lead down to three. A Shane Battier three pointer tied the game as the Laker offense was becoming stagnant. As Kobe began to take over late, LeBron was forced to the bench with foul trouble but his teammates picked up the slack.
At halftime of a game with a clear playoff atmosphere, the Lakers and Heat were tied at 53.
The Lakers started the third quarter doing what worked in the first half: moving the ball to get good looks inside. As the Heat missed their first few shots, the Lakers scored the first four points of the quarter. The Lakers were forcing misses from Miami but the Heat killed the Lakers on the glass and got multiple opportunities. The Heat soon had the lead again after a three point play from James off of a Laker turnover. The game got rough as Haslem and Howard were called for a double foul after pushing each other incessantly. LeBron James was then called for a technical foul of his own. As both teams traded misses, the score remained at 58 until a three pointer from Mario Chalmers. The Lakers continued to go to Howard, who was being guarded by Chris Anderson(Birdman). An acrobatic three point play from Kobe tied the game yet again as the intensity level heated up.
The Lakers regained the lead after Kobe stripped LeBron and finished on the fastbreak. The Heat continued to miss but the Lakers once again failed to secure a rebound and Miami capitalized with a layup. A thunderous dunk from Wade forced a Laker time out with the Lakers down by three. Dwight Howard’s dunk out of the timeout was answered by a spectacular fadeaway from LeBron to beat the clock. A three point play for Kobe from a left hand jump hook shot tied the game yet again with two minutes to go as the Lakers had withstood punch after punch from Miami.
At the end of the third quarter of this intense game, the Heat led 78-73.
The Lakers fell behind late in the third because of their inability to get rebounds and would have to clean the glass in the fourth for any hope of a victory. They also faced the seemingly impossible task of slowing down LeBron James. The first bucket of the fourth quarter came to Dwight Howard, who continued to have his way while Kobe and Nash sat. A three pointer from Earl Clark then cut the Miami lead to two. Clark then forced a miss from LeBron but the Lakers turned it over on the ensuing possession. A tough fadeaway from Wade put the Lakers back down by four as the Lakers began to struggle on offense.
When LeBron sat with nine minutes to go, L.A. promptly cut the lead to one with a Meeks three. The Lakers could not contain Dwyane Wade, however as they struggled to get consecutive stops. Off of yet another Laker turnover, Wade stuck another jumper and Miami led by four. A three point lay from Wade then put the Heat back up by seven. Kobe and Nash returned with the Lakers reeling, and Kobe set up Clark for a dunk immediately. LeBron then returned for the Heat and threw down an alley oop dunk in transition to maintain Miami’s biggest lead of the game.
The Lakers tried to lead a late game push but continued to turn the ball over with lazy passes. After Ray Allen missed several good looks, free throws from Kobe cut the lead down to five. Free throws from Wade pushed the lead back to seven as the Lakers needed the most help on the defensive end. As the Lakers continued to run the offense through Kobe, he got two more free throws but the Lakers were in desperate need of a stop. They failed to get that stop and soon trailed by nine after another dunk from LeBron. A tough shot from Kobe brought it back to seven but the defensive effort from the Lakers was simply not good enough. Miami held off the Lakers and walked away from Sunday’s contest with a 107-97 win.