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Improving Lakers get moral victory. Heat get impressive actual victory.

Jan 18, 2013, 2:34 AM EDT

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Joel Anthony AP

A week ago, with Los Angeles’ big men sitting in suits on the sideline, the Thunder routed the Lakers.

Since that game the Lakers have played better, particularly on defense. Dwight Howard had become more active, the offense has been more crisp. The defensive improvement happened again for the most part on Thursday — Los Angeles held the Miami Heat to 40.9 percent shooting in the first half, plus Kobe Bryant and teammates hit key shots down the stretch and tied the game 90-90 with 2:30 left.

But that’s when the Heat put it in another gear — one of defensive pressure and good execution of their sets — that the Lakers simply could not match. Not even close.

Miami looked like a champion, closed the game on a 9-0 run behind five points and two assists from LeBron James and won 99-90.

The Lakers looked like a team that could once again not overcome their self-inflicted wounds.

The game was a reminder that when the Heat are focused on defense they are more than just contenders, they are the reigning title holders and you are going to have to rip that trophy from their hands if you want it. They still have the best player in the game in LeBron James.

It also was a reminder that the Lakers limitations as they get to know each other. It was a moral victory for a 17-22 team that is past the point of having time for moral victories. They need actual ones and they are going to have to get a bunch on the road (10 of next 13 are away from Staples).

LeBron had a “might want to think about making me MVP again” type game with 39 points on 17-of-25 shooting, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and three steals thrown in for good measure. He had 10 of those points in the fourth quarter and hit the dagger shots down the stretch. Kobe Bryant was good (22 points but on 8-of-25 shooting with six turnovers) but LeBron switched on to him defensively near the end and made Kobe’s life very difficult.

Early on, it felt like this could be a Heat runaway — Miami’s first eight points came off four Lakers turnovers and four Heat highlight transition dunks. The Lakers wanted to move the ball quickly, away from the Heat’s pressure, but the result was rushed and errant passes.

The trend continued. Los Angeles had 9 first-quarter turnovers, 16 for the half and 20 for the game. It plays right into the Heat’s hands — easy transition buckets fuel the Heat. LeBron started 7-of-9 from the floor and 14 points before he sat the first time. Miami had 13 steals at half (Chris Bosh had five by himself). Steve Nash had four first-half turnovers under intense Heat ball pressure (they went hard at him).

But Miami never pulled away. The Lakers made a few shots, got a couple of stops and hung around, and eventually they caught and passed the Heat, leading 45-44 at the half.

The reason is the book on the Heat is right — size can give them trouble. The presence of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol (returned from a concussion) forced Miami away from its preferred small-lineups and three point shooting for a while. When Miami did go small they struggled a little with their shooting. Miami had no good answer for Howard, but the Lakers only got him four first-half shots.

The problem is Howard only got 7 shots, finishing with 13 points. The Lakers didn’t go to their strength.

The game remained close in the second half, with the Heat taking little leads and the Lakers making runs to get back in it. The last of those included a Steve Nash three, then a vintage Kobe three coming off a baseline screen. That shot tied the game at 90-90 with 2:32 left.

It was the last points the Lakers would score — Miami has switched to put LeBron on Kobe, Dwyane Wade on Steve Nash, and fouling Dwight Howard before he shot. It worked.

First Miami took the lead back with an elbow action that had Wade curling in for a clean look. Then Shane Battier fouled Howard in the paint rather than giving up the easy bucket and Howard obliged missing both free throws. Then the Heat took a four point lead off a Ray Allen rainbow shot, a catch-and-shoot he got off a curl.

Next trip down Wade smothered Steve Nash and then blocked his shot. Miami got its chance, LeBron drove hard then pulled up at the elbow and nailed it, at this point there were just :49 seconds left and the Heat were up 96-60. The Lakers needed a big shot but Metta World Peace and Kobe missed threes on the same possession (but you need to credit LeBron for part of that as he smothered Kobe and took away a lot of good options).

After that, there was a LeBron slam that put a cap on it.

It was an impressive last few minutes by the Heat that reminds you how good they can be.

And was a reminder to Lakers fans how far they are from that level right now

  1. trimaster1 - Jan 18, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    At the start of the season it was all Mike Brown’s fault the lakers weren’t doing so well. The scapegoat has been fired, and the lakers are still struggling. Who’s fault is it now?

    • skids003 - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:11 AM


  2. magicbucs - Jan 18, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    It was more the heat that were missing open shots in the first half and not that the lakers were playing much better D.

    In my opinion Dwight needs to be getting the ball down low 15-20 times per game. Kobe was cold the first 3 quarters and was wasting shots. He takes fade away shots while being double teamed lol. What a ball hog

  3. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    Anyone else think Dwight Howard absolutely sucks? He’s tall and he has long arms and he’ll block a shot if a teammate gets beaten to the basket. He’ll also get rebounds.

    But he is a liability on the offensive end. He should NEVER get the ball. He can’t lay the ball in from 1 foot away. He can’t shoot. He’s easy to strip. And he can’t make a free throw. He is ZERO threat offensively. And he giggles about it. A total dog.

    If Dwight Howard get a 6 year $120mil contract somewhere, Joel Anthony should get a 5 year $75mil contract. They are the same player, except Dwight is taller and Anthony has a better attitude.

    • lmoneyfresh - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      Howard is the only reason they were in that game. He was also the only reason they won the last few games. When he is a priority on offense, the lakers are a different team. When Kobe just jacks up shots, they lose.

    • bougin89 - Jan 18, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      I’m not a Laker or Dwight Howard fan but you can’t honestly think that. Howard isn’t a master on the block but he is definitely effective. His best attribute on offense is offensive rebounding, something that shouldn’t be underestimated. He is also an underrated passer IMO. Howard does deserve a max contract, even if he acted like a total crybaby jerk to Orlando for the last year or so that he was there.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        All I’m saying is that there were superstars on display last night. And Dwight Howard was not one of them. He’s a complementary player that doesn’t complement because he’s treated like an Alpha Dog. You saw what an Alpha Dog looks like last night. And you saw what one doesn’t look like.

      • bougin89 - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:53 PM

        How is Howard treated like an Alpha Dog in LA? Howard has proven he can be one of the best players in the NBA. He’s not as good as Lebron obviously but who was arguing that? I’m not sure where you’re even going with your comment.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 18, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        Read this artice from PBT written just a little while ago.

        “Kobe Bryant says he needs more help from teammates”

        Basically, it says that Kobe needs help. He needs someone who compliments him. Dwight Howard is clearly not that guy (In other words, a complimentary player who does not compliment).

        It says that offensively Howard was inneffective at best, and a liability at worst.


        Now if you excuse me, we have off until next Wednesday. I’m leaving Laker-Land for all of you to figure out. Have fun.

      • bougin89 - Jan 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        I guess I’ll make my point more clear. I’m not a Laker fan(as said earlier). And this is asinine:

        “But he is a liability on the offensive end. He should NEVER get the ball. He can’t lay the ball in from 1 foot away. He can’t shoot.”

        Why do they have to foul to stop him in the post? You don’t foul poor offensive players to put them at the line even if they are atrocious at shooting free throws.

        Dwight Howard is a 20 point, 20 rebound game waiting to happen. He took a team to the finals as a #1 option. Last year he was having a pretty incredible year on the court until he turned into an a-hole and injured his back.

  4. paulhargis53 - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    This game meant far more to the lakers than the heat. It was a “measuring stick” game for L.A. The heat turned it on when it mattered and outscored them 9-0 in crunch time.
    L.A. is toast.

    Foul, you’ve been told time and again why ” the haters are out like hyenas”.

    A majority of your fanbase was saying 70 wins and placing the lakers in the championship series, all before a game was played. Of course you are going to get it back in spades.

    Deal with it. Quit crying about it.

    Hmmm what book is he going to use this time to try and get back at me?

    • limonadamas - Jan 22, 2013 at 1:19 AM

      Who is this “majority” saying 70 wins? Lakerluver? Please… There are so many other Laker fans on this and other boards who’ve never said anything like that. And yet you persist.

      But don’t let facts get in the way of your idiotic rants. If railing against an imaginary “majority” makes you feel a sense of self-righteous indignation, then that’s just a sad commentary on you.

  5. miamatt - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    For this night, at least, it looked like Kobe is the one who is old and tired while Wade has plenty left in the tank.

    Late in tight ballgames, Miami just has so many guys who can make big shots. James, Wade, and Allen were cold blooded when it mattered.

  6. realitysmack22 - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    So Lebron switching to defend Kobe at the end is what slowed him down..ooh that’s makes sense..especially considering he was completely off until towards the end..he was 3 for like 18 starting the 4th..most of his points came in the fourth quarter..soo Lebron got torched if he switched to him in the end..put it this way..horrible..absolutely horrible game by the lakers..sloppy turnovers every 5 seconds..too many threes..don’t even get me started on Kobe (horrendous shooting performance..don’t get too use to that)..and still the fact that it want even close..doesn’t make me feel good for the lakers..but it does tell me the heat won’t win this year when it comes to meaningful of 7?..i’m a laker fan fyi..I think the spurs would get them..let alone the

  7. bucs24 - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Enjoy the playoffs from your couch lakers LOL

  8. soopreme - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    I fail to see the moral victory.
    Here you have the Heat coming in on a back to back on the road and they come in your House and literally were clowning the Lakers.
    Like someone else said, the only reason the Lakers were in the game was because the heat (Bosh in particular) were missing wide open shots. good shots that they normally make.
    They Lakers hung in there but when they threatened, the Heat had an answer every time.
    What should be troubling to Lakers fans was how easily the Heat were able to stuff the Lakers offense.
    Nash is just too old and they have no shot against teams like the Clippers or the Thunder.
    They are just too old and slow on the perimeter.
    Again, the Heat were on a back to back at the end of a long road trip and they appeared to be the fresher team.

    • bougin89 - Jan 18, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      I was thinking the exact same thing. I don’t see any moral victory in this game for the Lakers. The Lakers need every game they can get just for a chance to make the playoffs. If anything, a game like this shows that even if they do make the playoffs they won’t do much of anything in the playoffs.

    • Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jan 20, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      As a Laker fan, I would tend to agree with the majority of your post and bougin89 as well.

      The nice thing about your comment and his is that they are bereft of that juvenile type of hatred. Good one. Props to you both.

  9. mahhelo - Jan 18, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I’m I the only one who noticed that “the Lebron slam that put a cap on it” was a chicken s**t play? The Lakers had conceded the game and stopped playing as the final few seconds ticked away. I thought it was a pathetic way to end a great game. Lebron has some issues.

    • miamatt - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      I know what you mean, but the Lakers had committed an unnecessary foul that stopped play just seconds earlier, so, they had there chance to concede, and elected to “play on”.

  10. mahhelo - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I’m I the only one who felt that the “Lebron slam that put a cap on it” was a cheap play? The Lakers conceded the game, making no effort to intentionally foul as the final few seconds ticked down. A classless play that marred a great performance.

    • jimeejohnson - Jan 18, 2013 at 9:25 PM

      Consensus indicates you’re lying!

  11. caeser12 - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    It says something when a team with Kobe, Nash, Howard, and Gasol lead the league in Moral Victories, and the so-called “experts” go along with it.

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