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Heat get some confidence, Kobe gets some fuel — everybody wins

Mar 10, 2011, 11:55 PM EST

Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat Getty Images

Here is what you need to know about what Thursday night meant to the Lakers, and why Kobe Bryant has pushed his teams to two consecutive titles.

Thirty minutes after the Heat defeated the Lakers 94-88 in a game where Kobe’s shot was off after the first quarter (8-21 overall after starting 4-4) and his shot selection down the stretch was terrible, he was back on the court and started shooting. In an empty AmericanAirlines Arena after a tough game Kobe was putting himself through a workout and trying to fix his jumper. He was out there for an extended period just trying to fix what went wrong.

In the end, both the Lakers and the Heat may be better because of what happened Thursday night.

For the Heat, it was a confidence boost they needed and a reminder they can play with the big boys. This game was tied 88-88, but after a week of hearing how they couldn’t do this it was Wade and the Heat that were clutch.

First Wade stripped Kobe of the ball and was able to get it ahead to LeBron James on a run-out for a breakaway dunk. Then after a ridiculously rushed fade-away three from Kobe (with 23 seconds on the shot clock off an inbound play) Wade came down and the Heat executed a beautiful play. They used Zydrunas Ilgausksas and his threat of a 15-foot jumper to draw Bynum away from the basket. Then Wade went away from a LeBron James screen, a move  that totally threw Kobe (guarding Wade). Wade blew past Kobe and was in the lane before help could arrive. Wade laid it in and the Heat were up four.

Let’s be clear — reading too much into one regular season game is a mistake, but the Heat have plenty of things to build off of from this win.

Quality end of game execution is a place to start. They went out and made better decisions and shots in crunch time than the defending NBA champions.

Then there is the play of Chris Bosh, who attacked the rim all night. He did a great job sliding to the rim when his man (Pau Gasol) came over to help. The result was passes to him, offensive rebounds and a good night. Bosh was aggressive and took control of the ball. Early on, when Wade and James struggled it was Bosh that kept the Heat in this game.

For the Lakers, the lessons are ones they know, but bad habits that they fall back on anyway. In the second half they went away from Gasol and working their offense inside-out completely. And Bynum and Gasol got utterly and totally  outworked on the glass by some pretty pedestrian rebounders. Bynum had one rebound in the first half (he improved in the second half and finished with 12). Los Angeles lost focus on its strengths and at the end had Kobe launching desperation threes early in the shot clock.

We learned nothing new about the Lakers, we were simply reminded that they can still fall prey to bad habits. We learned nothing about the Heat — unless you really thought this recent slide meant they were not contenders. They are. They have flaws but they also have great talent at three spots on the floor that can make up for any deficiency. We were reminded that Wade knows how to play in the clutch.

That is something the Heat can build off of tomorrow. Kobe is trying to build off his mistakes right now.

  1. loungefly74 - Mar 11, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    The Laker’s execution at the end was terrible. But it’s a great point you made this loss will add some fuel. The Lakers have some issues to work out.

    • hnirobert3 - Mar 11, 2011 at 8:33 AM

      I think the Lakers are a much better match-up for the Heat than has been discussed (let’s not forget, Bosh put up 24 against them on Xmas).

      The biggest thing you can exploit against the Heat isn’t so much their size (they have Juwan’s corpse, Big Z, Joel Anthony and Dampier; they have enough bodies to throw in there to help Bosh) but their PG position.

      The Lakers’ biggest weakness on offense is not having a game changing/above average PG. So the one area where you can really exploit the Heat on, the Lakers lack the piece. So that leaves the Lakers’ bigs vs. the Heat’s. While the Lakers’ top two bigs are better, obviously, the drop off OVERALL isn’t as large as the drop off between LBJ/Wade and Bryant/Artest. Kobe’s a great player, but he has a lot of miles on those knees and cannot physically keep up with Wade and LeBron, and Artest’s just serviceable at this point in his career.

      • loungefly74 - Mar 11, 2011 at 9:14 AM

        i’ll take this for what it is, especially as a Laker’s fan, we lost a regular season game. i’m a little sad and disappointed but hey, ya move on. the triangle doesn’t call for a strong PG so I’m sure the Lakers will be fine as they haven’t had a strong PG for a long time. The Lakers lost, i’m not going to make excuses. sure, where there some questionable calls? absolutely, but you roll with the punches, ya get some calls and ya don’t sometimes. yeah, kobe and artest are old but there is plenty of fight in them to match up to anybody.
        as a laker fan, I’ll take my lumps on this one. But I’m looking forward to see how they play come playoff time.

        *****Also, was there anything more staged than Kobe staying 2 hours after the game to shoot the ball and then taking some questions from the media? Nice way to deflect the loss, Kobe.*****

        hmmm…well, you can tell he is pissed and like kurt said, this loss is fuel. also, i hope his teammates get the message as well. i’m sure he is very upset that his play or rather, lack of play, doomed the Lakers at the end.

  2. hnirobert3 - Mar 11, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Also, was there anything more staged than Kobe staying 2 hours after the game to shoot the ball and then taking some questions from the media? Nice way to deflect the loss, Kobe.

    • silencegooddoer - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:24 PM

      He could have told the media that they are work in progress! Do you believe that the Heat’s confidence is back??? If Kobe didn’t go 8-21 the Heat lose this game. Let’s say that they do own the Lakers. What good is that if they have to go through Boston, Chicago, Orlando, or even the Knicks, to have the chance at LA? They are done!

      Also, how pissed wil D Wade be if LeBron wins the MVP this year? That means that without the King the other two bozos are minced meat. Love it. Hope Bron gets it!

  3. borderline1988 - Mar 11, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Another bad 4th quarter by Kobe. How many of these does he need before we finally believe that he is but an average ‘clutch’ shooter?
    He had like 6 game-winners in the regular season last year – that was remarkable. But besides that, his shooting percentage in late game situations is worse than the league average.
    He lost the game yesterday with a turnover to Wade and an ill-advised, deep 3point attempt that wasnt even close.
    His ego just gets in the way of him making the right play in end-game scenarios. How do you not go to Bynum or Gasol, both of whom were unstoppable in iso-post up situations. Chris Bosh cannot guard Gasol, and noone on the Heat can guard Bynum with good positioning. Better yet, both were hitting their free throws.
    Just a stupid play. We can harp all we want about the Lakers winning the last 2 titles, but that has way more to do with the Lakers having one of the best frontcourts in NBA history than guard play.

    • loungefly74 - Mar 11, 2011 at 10:27 AM

      yeah…kobe had a bad game with dumb shots and poor choices but lets not detract from his overall resume. kobe is the leader of this team. i can tell you just hate kobe. fine…i have no problem with that but what you are doing is nitpicking. but at the end of the day, i feel pretty good being a kobe and laker fan…after all, he has 5 rings and we are the back to back defending champs.
      kobe had a crappy game. fortunately for laker fans, its a regular season game. see ya in the playoffs…

      • hnirobert3 - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        CAN’T WAIT

        I couldn’t resist channeling my inner Bart Scott.

      • borderline1988 - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:37 PM

        You’re right – you can feel good about Kobe and the Lakers because he’s won 5 rings. I just think that way too much credit is given to Kobe.
        The Lakers have an incredible frontcourt – possibly one of the best in NBA history when healthy. Gasol is the best power forward in the game, and Bynum is arguably the 2nd best centre in the game. Odom is probably the best 6th man in the game (he doesnt get credit for it, b/c he doesn’t take as many shots as Crawford or Terry, but he gives you so much more than points).
        Kobe has an enormous ego, and he enjoys taking credit for the Lakers’ success. Fact is, he is a volume shooter with average FG% numbers, and even worse FG% in the last few minutes of the game.

        You’re right – I do hate Kobe. While I appreciate his talent (probably one of the 3 most talented players in NBA history when just looking strictly at basketball skills) and his tenacity+work ethic, I hate his decision making.
        He lives off the backs of great teams, but loves to isolate himself at the end of the day, as if it’s just him out there.
        This story shouldn’t be about ‘adding more fuel to Kobe’s fire’. It should be about better 4th quarter execution. But I doubt Kobe cares much about execution. He’s rather shoot and take the glory if he wins.

      • loungefly74 - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:22 PM

        first thing, your points are very valid and make for good arguement. your basketball IQ is good and you bring great discussion to the table. (no sarcasm)

        you know what i love about sports? well, one thing about sports…is winning. winning cures all. you can be playing crappy but if you win at the end of the day, all is forgiven. if kobe lost all those Finals, and didn’t win any title, my goodness…his “stock” would take a great plunge. he would be associated more with allen iverson than michael jordan. kobe should thank his lucky stars that he was/is able to play on extremely talanted teams.
        because he is the leader of this Laker team, he is going to get huge props when they win…and when they lose, he gets the brunt of the criticism. he takes the risk of being in the forefront (spelling?) and with that comes the good and the bad.
        not trying to give kobe excuses but he has to have a big ego to be sucessful because if he didn’t, who would lead? you’re right, he gets tons of credit when we all know everybody involved made it happen. but kobe is the face, jerk or not, he is going to be the one in the limelight when they win.
        i hate it when kobe goes “rogue” but he is my guy, my team.
        as far as 4th quarter execution, i’m sure he knows he F’ed up in last night’s game…but as a leader of the team, he will make it his goal to try and bounce back and do it with the respect of his team.
        so again, i’m pissed they lost but i’m looking forward to playoff time.

        this will be an exciting year in the playoffs with…the old dog celtics, defending champ lakers, up and coming thunder, the versatile mavericks…the fundementaly sound spurs…the high energy heat…the dangerous magic…darkhorse hawks…and new to the party knicks.

    • mickdamill - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:02 PM

      I’m waiting to see everyone hop back on the Heat bandwagon after this win. It is extremely hard to keep up a win streak that the Lakers had in the NBA no matter who they were playing. Out of anyone that was playing on the court that night, even after the poor shooting I’d still want Kobe to take the last game winning shot as well as handling the ball in the 4th quarter. I’m not a Kobe fan nor a Lakers fan but I’ll respect where its deserved and I’d want the ball in his hands poor shot or not.

  4. 1historian - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    Why do they wear the uniforms in Miami that say ‘Los Lakers’ and ‘El Heat’? And of course ‘Los Bulls’ won Sunday.

    Just one more reason not to watch, as if I needed one.

    • hnirobert3 - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:28 PM

      It’s an NBA thing, not a Miami thing. You haven’t seen the commercials with the Nueva York jerseys? The Spurs wear Los Spurs jerseys also. Pretty sure the Suns wore Los Suns during the playoffs last year after the AZ immigration laws went into place…

    • loungefly74 - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:32 PM

      ****Just one more reason not to watch, as if I needed one.****

      wow…that speaks volumes of your character.

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