Lakers 124, Heat 118

You look at the final box score and Dwyane Wade’s 35 points and eight assists Monday don’t seem that far off the 40 points and 11 assists he had on Christmas against the Lakers. It just shows you how misleading numbers can be sometimes. This was a game the Lakers could have won by 10 points or more in regulation.

They led 85-76 with 3:12 left in the third quarter but gave up 11 unanswered points to the Heat. Wade checked out for the final 2:31 of the quarter. James Posey and Antoine Walker combined to hit three 3-pointers for Miami. You might remember those two as the guys who couldn’t pass Pat Riley’s conditioning test earlier this month.

The Lakers also blew a seven-point lead in the last three minutes of regulation. But they recovered to win in overtime. The stat of the game might be that the Lakers connected on 12 of 19 3-pointers through three quarters. It sustained them with their big men in foul trouble and the Heat owning a huge free-throw advantage.

“You have to make 3-pointers against Miami,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “If you don’t, you’re going to be in a vacuum because they punish you inside. They take charges. (Alonzo) Mourning can block shots. They knock people down when they come in there. We were able to hit some 3s tonight.”

The Lakers finished with 14 3-pointers for the game. Smush Parker now has hit 10 3-pointers in the last two games. They also had assists on 34 of 48 baskets, led by Kobe Bryant with 8. Every player who got in the game scored and had an assist for the Lakers.

The unsung hero might have been Andrew Bynum, who didn’t give up after being called for his fourth foul not even two minutes into the third quarter. He came back to play the entire fourth quarter and all but the last 16 seconds of overtime. He wasn’t called for a fifth foul in that 16:44 and finished with 11 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.

Bynum also stepped to the line with the score tied at 112-112 and 3:11 left in overtime. He swished both free throws. It’s fair to ask if Shaq would have been able to do the same thing in that situation.

Bryant said afterward he pulled his groin a little when he went down in the fourth quarter. He said he hadn’t even thought about it until that happened. He’ll get a test with the Lakers playing back-to-back games this week. Bryant also should put in a call to the league office after shooting three free throws to Wade’s 13.

Finally, a quote from Miami acting coach Ron Rothstein about Brian Cook: “He’s a huge problem. Probably for a big guy, he’s the best catch-and-shoot guy around. He’s got a real quick release and we talked about it – - and we knew – - he’ll step back. We wanted to try and run him off his 3s, but we didn’t get to him quick enough.”

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By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

Even if Shaquille ONeal is sitting on the bench in a three-piece suit and Pat Riley is recovering from knee and hip surgeries at home, the Miami Heat are still the NBA champions until proven otherwise this season.

It was a fact the Lakers lost sight of when they faced the Heat on Christmas Day in Miami. They played down to the Heats sub-.500 record, in Kobe Bryants mind, instead of rising to the level of a championship team themselves.

They played 53 complete minutes Monday night, as opposed to the Christmas game they trailed from start to finish, before prevailing 124-118 in overtime at Staples Center, beating the Heat for only the second time in six games since the ONeal trade.

“I think we did a much better job understanding that theyre NBA champions and theyre not just going to come out here and roll over, Bryant said. “ Theyre champions for a reason and I feel like tonight we were able to step up to the challenge and play well.

Bryant finished with 25 points and got the upper hand after going back-and-forth with Dwyane Wade in the closing minutes. The Lakers had seven players finish in double figures and hit 14 of 25 3-pointers after making 5 of 23 on Christmas.

The Lakers blew a seven-point lead in the final three minutes of regulation, with the Heat sending the game to overtime as Smush Parker saved a ball to Miamis Jason Kapono, who fed Udonis Haslem for a tying dunk with 22.5 seconds left.

But Lakers coach Phil Jackson was pleased with the resolve his team showed in the timeout before overtime, as well as the way the Lakers went “possession by possession to beat Miami in the extra five minutes.

“They said, `Well, lets get it in overtime, and they did, Jackson said. “They went out and got that game in overtime, which was a good effort, I thought, against a team that knows how to play down the stretch pretty well.

It started with Bryant, who hit various degree of difficulty shots at the end of regulation. He drilled a jumper over James Posey after two pump fakes late in the fourth quarter and squeezed into space to push in a 16-footer with 46.5 seconds left in regulation.

But Bryant also found his teammates for 3-pointers all game, finishing with eight assists. He collapsed the defense and passed to Brian Cook for a 3-pointer with 2:33 remaining in overtime as the Lakers went ahead 117-114.

Bryant later took a pass from Luke Walton and scored on a reverse layup with 1:17 to play. The Heat closed to 119-118 with 58.6 seconds remaining on a Haslem jumper. Bryant followed with two free throws to set up the games decisive play.

With Miami looking to tie, Wade went to drive on Bryant. The Lakers devoted one side of their locker room board to screen-and-roll defense, a sore subject on Christmas Day when Wade totaled 40 points and 11 assists in the Heats 101-85 victory.

Bryant had tied up Wade for a jump ball in the fourth quarter and drawn an offensive foul. He dug in on defense again and the Lakers came up with a steal when Wade threw a wayward pass trying to find James Posey for a 3-pointer.

Parker got his hands on the ball and sank both free throws with 16.1 seconds left. It helped atone for Parkers play at the end of regulation as well as the two foul shots he missed at the end of the Fridays victory against Orlando.

“I just read it wrong, Wade said. “You know, I had a step on (Bryant). I tried to draw and kick but Parker stayed at home, so he caught me at the last second. It was a great defensive play. I should have put it up, but I didnt.

Cook finished with 25 points, three shy of his career high, and hit 10 of 16 shots, including four 3-pointers. Parker connected on five 3-pointers and went on to score 17 points. Wade scored 35 points, 16 in the first quarter, 19 the rest of the game.

“This game required a lot of different people to contribute, said Jackson, whose team improved to 18-4 at home.

It started a week in which the Lakers will play back-to-back games at San Antonio and Dallas. Jackson set a goal for his team of winning three of five games in this stretch.

The Lakers survived on a night their big men couldnt stay on the floor. Andrew Bynum started at center but played only 11 minutes through three quarters because of foul trouble. Forward Vladimir Radmanovic even played as an emergency center.

Miami arrived having won a season-best four games in a row and awaiting ONeals return any day from Nov. 19 knee surgery. ONeal was booed when he was shown on the video board in the third quarter.

Not that he was concerned. ONeal motioned to his ear as if asking to hear more from the crowd. Bryant said afterward that he didnt get the chance to speak to ONeal during the night.

Cook, meanwhile, was asked what the difference was between the game the Lakers played Monday and the one they played three weeks earlier against Miami. He laughed before answering, “A lot.

“I thought we just showed a lot more energy, Cook added. “We werent as lethargic, especially on the defensive end. We kept Dwyane Wade out of the lane, so he couldnt pick us apart. Everybody was making shots, everybody was having fun.

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  • gdchild

    Good win. Everybody contributed. A beatiful team win.