Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday night contest against Miami, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Heat: M. Chalmers, D. Wade, L. James, C. Bosh, U. Haslem
4:29: It was all breakaway dunks from the Heat in the opening minutes, LeBron and Wade doing what they do so well in transition off four careless giveaways from the Lakers. Yet the Heat couldn’t hit anything else, missing all eight of its shots, as the Lakers took the lead when Nash pulled up for his second jumper to make it 13-12 for the home team.
0:00 The Lakers adjusted pretty well after the early Miami barrage, but ended up going down 26-22 after conceding the final four points of the quarter on LeBron’s dunk (12 points, two assists) and two Shane Battier free throws after an ill-advised Chris Duhon foul. L.A. had success running their offense through Gasol – who came off the bench in his first action after five games missed to a concussion – with the second unit, as he hit a pick and pop jumper, drew two foul shots (both makes) and found Metta World Peace for a three-pointer on the three possessions in which he was featured. Certainly a bonus to have the NBA’s most skilled big man with the second unit, which L.A. may try to showcase even when the Spaniard returns to the starting line up.
9:07 Gasol continued to find success on offense, converting a lefty hook from the left block to reach a team-high eight points, but had less success on defense, the Heat continuing to score at the rim to the tune of 26 paint points.
1:02 After making four straight free throws, Howard missed two during a terrific defensive stretch for the Lakers on the other end, as the Heat fell below 40 percent from the field despite the 16 Lakers turnovers that led to a bunch of transition dunks. World Peace drained his second triple of the half off Nash’s third assist to piggy-back on Howard’s and-1 at the rim, giving L.A. a two-point edge. Miami did start the half as they opened it – a LeBron dunk – but the Lakers went into the tunnel up 45-44, somehow, despite 16 (!) turnovers leading to 19 Heat points.
6:10 Miami’s defensive strategy was basically to swarm Nash at the top of the key early and force him to give the ball up. And without Gasol in with the starters, L.A. wasn’t making good choices after Nash gave it up, the Heat taking advantage to push to as much as a seven-point lead after LeBron’s and-1 at the rim. L.A. did get three pointers from Clark (his second) and Jamison with good ball movement that cut the margin to 62-58.
0:00 LeBron murdered the Lakers out of high screen/rolls with Joel Anthony picks the second Howard went out, getting to the bucket for three finishes late in the quarter that gave Miami an eight-point lead after three. Gasol simply didn’t have the legs to go up and contest at the rim, and LeBron was a ridiculous 12 of 12 finishing in the paint (1 for 8 outside of it). Meanwhile, Kobe was only 3 for 16, and the turnover count was 19 for L.A. to just six for the Heat. Ouch.
5:27 Bryant heated up at the right time for the Lakers, nailing four of his next six shots to briefly put the Lakers up two at 83-81, before Wade got a tough one to fall in the paint that gave us a new ball game with half the fourth left. Re-entering the fray was Nash, who had six minutes to rest, Gasol staying in with Howard, MWP and Kobe. What a fun one in Los Angeles.
2:25 The first Ray Allen field goal in six attempts was a three-pointer, and he added a layup moments later off a Bosh feed to put the Heat up 90-86, countering the first triple from Nash. Howard hit 1 of 2 free throws on the next trip (5 of 11 in the game) and Bryant drained a pull-up three to tie the game at 90.
0:00 But from that point on, it was literally all Miami. The visitors scored the final nine points, getting a 13-foot jumper from Wade (27 points), a fading jumper from Allen (three straight makes after an 0 for 5 start), a LeBron pull-up and finally an James and-1 in the final seconds (39 points on a ridiculous 17 of 25 field goals). The Lakers hung tough all game despite the James assault, and a 20-6 difference in turnovers, against the defending champs. L.A. clearly isn’t there yet from an execution standpoint with their stars out of sync for much of the game, but has played with the right amount of intensity for three straight games, something to build on moving forward. Up next: Toronto on Sunday. See you from Canada, folks.