Slap on some sleeves and throw on some tinsel to the court, and you'd have a very similar game as on Christmas Day. The ever-plucky Lakers fought hard against the two-time defending NBA champions tonight, but ultimately couldn't prevail in Miami, losing 109-102.
The Heat didn't have All-Star Dwyane Wade tonight, who sat out yet another contest with a sore knee, but the personnel on hand was just enough to beat LA. The contest was probably a little closer than it should have been, with the point differential down to just four points with a few minutes on the clock. The Lakers did what they almost always do, scrapping and hustling against Miami, never quitting on the game despite staring at a gigantic disparity of talent. But at the end of the game, Miami's two remaining All-Stars, LeBron James and Chris Bosh determined the outcome. The pair combined for a 24-37 night, scoring over half (58) of their team's total points. They simply eviscerated the Lakers on every part of the floor, hitting shots from the perimeter and in the post, while handily making plays for their teammates. James finished with a 31/13/6 in his latest attempt at making incredible performances look fairly ho-hum.
While the Lakers were able to limit turnovers (11) and didn't let speedy point guards Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole go for 20 a piece (though they shot 9 for 14 as a pair), they got soundly outreboarded by one of the league's worst rebounding teams and let Miami shoot a scorching 57.7% from the field. The defensive performance wasn't entirely embarrassing, as it was James and Bosh doing the lion's share of the scoring, but if it weren't for an 11 for 23 free throw performance from the Heat, the loss could have been far, far worse.
Pau Gasol (22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists), Jodie Meeks (22 points) and Nick Young (19 points off the bench) played well offensively for the LA, but it simply wasn't enough on a game that they probably could have won with a little more defense. The Heat turned over the ball 18 times, allowed a solid 45% shooting to the Lakers and generally struggled through a game that should have been a cake walk. It seems like a recipe for an underdog upset, but ultimately it came down to the one thing the Lakers can't simply will themselves towards: raw talent.
An undermanned, far less talented Show played well enough to grab that moral victory in a noble loss to the best team in the league. However, at this point in the season, those type of fake W's aren't what the team wants. They're 16-27 and rapidly coming back to Earth after a brief two-game win streak.
Onward to tomorrow night at Orlando.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino