Mar 4, 2012, 7:50 PM EDT
You couldn’t have scripted this any better.
Kobe Bryant got revenge on Dwyane Wade for his hard foul in the All-Star Game a week later, with his Lakers winning 93-83 over Miami behind 33 points on 23 shots for the Black Mamba. Wade fouled out (!) scoring just 16 points on 17 field goal attempts. Bryant was clearly motivated to take this game out of the Heat’s hands from the start, scoring 16 points in the first quarter.
But it wasn’t just Bryant and a difficult night for Wade. The Lakers abused the Heat inside with their size advantage, and Metta World Peace had a magnificent game. After struggling the past two years, Lakers fans have become nervous about his production, but the man formerly known as Ron Artest was dominant on both ends of the floor. MWP hit 2-4 from three-point land, a few turnaround jumpers (prepare for the apocalypse) and added four steals. He did all the things he did in his prime and helped contain LeBron James for the most part.
It was a brutally physical game between the two, and the first win for L.A. over the Heat since the formation of the Big 3. Of course it was’t actually over the Big 3. Chris Bosh was out due to personal reasons. The impact there was significant as with Wade struggling and in foul trouble, James was passing to Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony to try and convert buckets. That did not work out well.
Still, it was a statement game for L.A. They’ve been playing well but haven’t had a statement game like this outside of the win over Boston before the break. Now they’re on a significant roll with a loss to the Thunder on the road the only blemish as of late, and took out the team that has dominated them the past two seasons, and the player, LeBron James, which has equally vexed Bryant. The formula for L.A. is still effective. Tough defense, creating quality offense, allowing the defense to get back and set, and so forth. That cycle of control is what allows them to play their best and spacing the floor with MWP and Steve Blake, when effective, makes them an entirely different animal.
Just two weeks removed from a time when they were thought to be unraveling, the Lakers look like the best team in the Western Conference. It’s early, but if the Lakers wanted to start the second half hot to push for a playoff run, this stretch bolstered by a huge win over the Heat was a great way to go.
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