Rapid Reaction: Heat 109, Lakers 102
January, 23, 2014
By Dave McMenamin
MIAMI -- Kobe Bryant understands what the Miami Heat are going through, trying to make it back to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.
After all, it was only a couple of seasons ago that Bryant was trying to lead the Los Angeles Lakers along that same path before things fell apart in spectacular fashion with a four-game second-round sweep by the Dallas Mavericks.
"Having a competitive spirit night after night is very, very tough to do," Bryant said before the Lakers played the Heat on Thursday. "Going for three championships in a row, four Finals in a row, it's tough. It's tough to get guys going.
"It's like a malaise that kind of sets in."
That lethargy seemed to grab a hold of Miami, which was playing without Dwyane Wade, for most of the night against the Lakers. But LeBron James made just enough plays to save them.
It was almost like Bryant could see it coming.
"LeBron's been doing a great job of keeping the guys going with his own energy," Bryant said. "That's his responsibility to keep guys engaged. Then, when the time rolls around, hopefully the other guys will get charged up and ready to go."
James led the way with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists, but Chris Bosh was one of those charged-up guys right beside him, pouring in 31 points on 15-for-22 shooting and keeping L.A. at bay when the Lakers tried to make a game of it late.
How it happened: L.A. trailed by 10 heading into the fourth quarter before scoring the first five points of the final frame to cut Miami's lead to 85-80 with 9:46 remaining. Things went back and forth from there, with Nick Young making it a four-point game with a jumper with 4:06 remaining. But Miami came right back with a 3 from Ray Allen to push the lead back to seven. L.A. kept fighting though, and Jodie Meeks hit a pull-up 3 on a broken play a couple of minutes later to again draw L.A. within four at 103-99. After a timeout, James hit a pull-up 3 with 2:23 to go to push Miami's lead back to seven. The closest L.A. got was five the rest of the way.
What it means: With Miami having lost four of its previous seven and Wade out, it was conceivable that the Lakers come in and steal one. But L.A. just couldn't make enough plays on defense, allowing the Heat to shoot 57.7 percent from the field.
Hits: Pau Gasol continued his inspired play with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Meeks tied Gasol with a team-high 22 points including a 4-for-6 mark from the 3 line.
Young scored 19 off the bench.
Kendall Marshall had 11 assists.
Ryan Kelly took a charge on James in the open court.
Misses: The Heat outrebounded L.A. 48-35.
L.A. trailed by as many as 16 in the first half and never held a lead during the entire contest.
Stat of the game: Miami shot just 11-for-23 on free throws (47.8 percent), but L.A. couldn't capitalize.
Up next: Five down, two to go. The Lakers close out their Grammy road trip in Orlando on Friday and in New York to play the Knicks on Sunday.