As the Los Angeles Rams hit a last-second field goal to survive a furious comeback by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and advance in the NFL playoffs, the Lakers were well on their way to making sure at least one L.A. team still came up disappointing in South Florida, as a furious fourth-quarter comeback by the purple and gold proved unable to overcome a massive deficit to the Miami Heat, and the Lakers lost 113-107.
The Lakers came out extremely flat on defense, unable to recover from giving up 39 points in the first quarter. The Heat went up by as many as 26 in the second quarter, and though the Lakers chipped into a bit of that lead, they struggled to make the game competitive until the final frame.
L.A. finally made noise with a massive run midway through the fourth quarter to bring the deficit to as little as five thanks to some timely shooting from Avery Bradley and LeBron James and Russell Westbrook’s ability to blow past tired Miami defenders in the paint. But Duncan Robinson and P.J. Tucker each hit a clutch three-point bucket to help put the game away, and Avery Bradley had a costly offensive foul on P.J Tucker when the Lakers had a chance to bring the score within one possession.
In his return to the arena where he first wore No. 6 before switching back to it this year, LeBron James struggled mightily from three-point range but still finished with a team-high 33 points, his 17th straight game leading the Lakers in scoring.
Russell Westbrook had his second straight game of decent shooting from the field, finishing 9-15 with 24 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. It’s Russ’s first 20-point performance since Jan. 2 against Minnesota.
Miami had five players score in double figures, led by Duncan Robinson with 25. Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo also finished with 20 and 14, respectively, with the former notching a triple-double by adding 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Heat focused their defensive efforts on James and Westbrook and guarded fellow Lakers starter Trevor Ariza like he shot 35% from deep for them last year — which he did. Ariza validated their strategy by going 0-5 from three on the night.
The good news is that this may be the last time for a while — hopefully a long while — seeing Ariza and Dwight Howard in the starting lineup alongside James, Westbrook and Avery Bradley. Though Anthony Davis was a late scratch in today’s game after being initially listed as questionable, Frank Vogel revealed before the game that the Lakers all-star big man is getting extremely close to returning from an MCL sprain that has sidelined him for over a month.
Of course, after another demoralizing loss coupled with the recent storm of rumors surrounding Vogel’s job security, it’s not a certainty that Vogel will still be around when AD gets back.
Davis’s next chance to return will come on Tuesday as the Lakers continue their road trip against the Brooklyn Nets in a nationally televised matchup on TNT. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. PT.