An ugly affair began with an offensive explosion by the Heat, as Miami began the game on an 18-0 run before Kobe broke the drought on a long jumper with a little over four minutes to go in the quarter. LA missed their first 14 shots (and even TWO free throws from Jordan Hill), but despite this, the Lakers were able to make a run behind Nick Young's insertion off of the bench, with Swaggy knocking in 7 points as the Lakers were able to close the quarter on a 12-4 run of their own to cut the deficit to 22-12. Also helping things once again was Tarik Black's relentless activity, with the big guy grabbing four offensive rebounds in the period upon relieving Jordan Hill. The easy looks continues for Miami, who scored 38 of their 44 first half points in the paint. The Lakers ended the half down by 10 while shooting just 25.5% from the field, and were only not in a bigger hole because Miami missed all 7 of their three point attempts. Kobe Bryant looked rusty to start his latest return to action, missing 8 of his 9 first half shots. He also notably played 16 minutes in the first half, already half of his 32 minute limit (which he thankfully did not exceed tonight). The only real positive for Los Angeles to take away from the first half was not having a bigger deficit to overcome in the second one.
The third quarter began with two quick layups for Hill and Ed Davis, which was a much nicer beginning to a half than the first, when it took LA nearly 8 minutes to score. The Lakers cut Miami's lead to as little as 2 in the third, but ultimately were unable to put together the consistency to stay close with the Heat in the period and headed to the fourth down 61-53.
In the final frame, the Lakers gave a valiant effort, battling back to within two points once again on a Wesley Johnson layup and then a Davis putback, but the Lakers breakdowns defensively allowed the heat to move ahead 78-72. A clutch rainbow three by Bryant pulled the Lakers back within three with no timeouts. Ronnie Price blocked the ball on the Heat's ensuing possession, and the Lakers rushed the ball up the court. The ball, as it has done for almost 19 years now, found its way to Kobe, who missed once again at the buzzer, this time from a good five or so feet behind the three point line (CHRIS DUHON RANGE) as the Lakers fell to Miami in a game that really should not have been as close as it was.
It was Kobe who hit the late shot to put the Lakers in a position to tie, but on this night he was bad, needing 19 shots to score 12 points. Bryant did manage to grab 6 rebounds, and should have had more than his 7 assists, but his teammates bobbled out of bounds or missed layups on a few gorgeous feeds from the Mamba, which sadly is nothing new for the Lakers this season. Los Angeles did not only struggle when Kobe passed it to them, as the team shot a horrific 31.5% from the field and 17.4% from behind the arc. Nick Young had a nice first quarter, but fell off the face of the earth for the rest of the game and finished with 8 points on 11 shots to continue his swag-less streak. After being pretty productive since his move to the bench, Carlos Boozer turned back into a pumpkin tonight with an ugly 2 points on 1-8 shooting in a performance that lived up to his "Tank Commander" nickname.
Ed Davis (12 points, 6-7 shooting, 8 rebounds), Jeremy Lin (7 points, 3-7 from the field), and even Ryan Kelly to a degree (7 points on perfect 3-3 shooting) had good games for the Lakers, but if those are a team's three best players then that is a pretty good indicator of a loss. The absence of Wade (4 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in 15 first half minutes but left midway through the second quarter with a hamstring issue), as well as Chris Bosh's shooting struggles (4-17 from the field to get 8 points) and overall lack of activity allowed the Lakers to stay close on a night Miami coughed up the rock 18 times, but the Lakers still did not have the execution on this night to beat a team that was still more talented than they are.
For those of you that missed this one, lucky you, as this was one of the ugliest basketball games I can remember viewing in recent years. The Lakers next host LeBron James and his quickly imploding Cavaliers on TNT on Thursday, which has a potential for either an embarrassing blowout or further depths for Cleveland to fall, with no in between. See you there.