3:30 PM ET, February 10, 2008
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
All good things.
Not enough, though, for Miami to escape the worst rut in franchise history.
Marion had 15 points and 14 rebounds in his first appearance with the Heat, who've lost 22 of their last 23 games -- something no Miami team has ever done. The expansion Heat opened 1-21.
"We showed good things and there were times that you could tell everyone was comfortable with everyone at the same time," Marion said. "We left it all on the floor. That's all you can ask. I think we just ran out of gas at the end there, and that's what we have to build on."
Didn't matter. Bryant and the Lakers were too much.
Bryant shot 10-for-15 and Lamar Odom finished with 15 points and 18 rebounds for Los Angeles, which has gone 5-2 on its nine-game road trip.
"This is the hump game and it was a good game to win," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We didn't play particularly well but we were able to win the game."
Blount's 3-pointer with 2:43 left got Miami within nine, and on the next possession, Bryant fouled Wade on a 3-point try. The 2006 finals MVP hit two free throws, added two more a few seconds later, and followed it all with a steal and layup with 1:28 left to get Miami within 98-94.
But Gasol easily scored over Banks -- he's only a foot shorter than the Lakers' new center -- with 1:04 left, sealing the win.
Bryant thinks the trade will help Miami -- eventually.
"It's going to take a little time for them," Bryant said. "They are in a rebuilding phase now but I don't think the process is going to take that long with them. You still have D-Wade, and Marion is a heck of a player. I think in the long run it's going to make them a better team."
With the Lakers -- another of Shaq's former teams -- in town, the Heat had planned to make Sunday's game a celebration of O'Neal, with a halftime montage of videos and highlights featuring his first 3 1/2 years in Miami.
Those plans were quickly aborted, of course.
O'Neal's locker stall was cleaned out, his nameplate gone, and even his spot next to Wade in Miami's national-anthem formation was empty. Banks got the locker next to O'Neal's previous spot, and Marion's jersey was in the one formerly occupied by Luke Jackson, waived to make room for the two former Suns.
Marion took the microphone shortly before tip-off, to a rousing ovation.
"I'm happy to be a part of this Heat organization and we're trying to build for the future," Marion said.
But images of the championship past -- including one shot of O'Neal and Heat coach Pat Riley sharing a quiet moment after the Heat won the Eastern Conference title -- still plaster the walls around Miami's locker room.
"Being an Irish guy, I'm pretty sentimental and nostalgic," Riley said. "That's the way I am. ... Shaq will forever be a player that I think did an incredible amount for me and for this franchise. I don't care what's written or how it's written."
There were still more than a few O'Neal jerseys donned by fans, but the Miami crowd seemed to take a quick liking to Marion.
His first touch in a Heat uniform led to points, when he found Wright for a layup 3:18 after tipoff. And his first basket gave Miami its first lead Sunday, a putback of Wade's miss that gave the Heat a 16-14 edge with 3:26 left in the opening quarter.
It didn't last long.
Bryant found Jordan Farmar for a wide-open 3 that put the Lakers ahead 25-24 at the first-quarter buzzer, and Los Angeles didn't trail again. Vujacic went 4-for-4 for 10 points in his first five minutes of playing time, staking the Lakers to a 35-28 lead, and the margin was 51-47 at halftime.
Marion had seven points in the third quarter, trying to keep the Heat close, but the Lakers were too much. After a turnover by Wade -- one of nine the 2006 Finals MVP had Sunday -- Bryant's 3-pointer with 7:43 left capped the Lakers' big run and gave them a 92-75 lead.
"We got beat by a very good team," said Riley, whose team fell to 9-40. "We're not a team yet. We are; got the Heat on the jersey. But we're going to need to really work at this."
Maybe the loudest crowd noise came with 1:29 left in the third, when Wade fouled Bryant as the Lakers' star tried a fast-break dunk. Both tumbled to the court, and Bryant gave Wade a pat on the head as they got up, as if to say no harm done. ... Riley said Dallas owner Mark Cuban inquired about O'Neal's availability six to eight weeks ago, at which time the Heat weren't interested. ... Banks checked in for the first time with 9:30 left in the second quarter and finished with seven points in 15 minutes.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||37-81 (.457)||38-80 (.475)|
|3PM-3PA||8-25 (.320)||4-12 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||22-28 (.786)||14-17 (.824)|
|Fast Break Points||14||15|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||14 (0/0)||20 (1/0)|