Even though Miami came into the game winners of four in a row and owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference at 33-14, that didn't mean coach Erik Spoelstra was about to overlook the 24-27 Lakers.
"What you notice is that they have won seven out of their last nine despite everything that is circling around their team," Spoelstra said before the game. "They have found a way."
Spoelstra called it a way, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni called it a route.
"I think they’ll be back up," D'Antoni said of Kobe Bryant's assist totals that had dwindled to just 9 total against Boston, Brooklyn and Detroit before dropping 8 dimes on the Bobcats. "I think he’s trying to get a feel, but obviously the right route is keep passing and trying to find open guys."
Bryant was back on the distribution wagon against Miami, doling out nine assists and putting his stamp on the game with 28 points and 6 rebounds, but as well as Bryant played, Miami had LeBron James on the other side of the ball.
James, who came into the game shooting 43-for-59 in his past four games (72.9 percent), was just as hot against L.A. After starting the game 4-for-4 for 12 points in the first half but having his playing time limited by three fouls, the three-time MVP exploded for 14 of his 32 points in the third quarter. He ended up shooting 12-for-18 from the floor.
"He’s unbelievable," D'Antoni, who coached James in each of the past two Olympics, said of the Heat forward. "His work ethic, his energy -- when everybody is down in practice, he’s the guy that gets it going, his love of the game. Besides winning the lottery gene pool that he won, besides all that, he takes it to a different level that I don’t know if anybody can go there to be honest with you. He’s unbelievable and he studies the game, there’s just a lot of great things that he does."
Not so great if you're a Laker fan.
Sunday wasn't exactly a classic James-versus-Bryant battle. They were rarely matched up with one another and as brilliant as Bryant has been in his 17th season, he's no match for James steamrolling his way through the league in his 10th.
The bigger takeaway was that Bryant's teammates didn't have nearly the same impact as James' running mate Dwyane Wade (30 points on 12-for-18 shooting), who dominated right there with James.
How it happened:The Lakers led by one point after the first quarter and the game was tied up 53-53 at halftime as the Heat were able to erase an early 7-point deficit. James started to take over in the third, but L.A. kept plugging away and made it close thanks to a couple of early fourth quarter 3's by Earl Clark (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Jodie Meeks (six points on 2-for-3 shooting). But after just 7 team turnovers through the first three quarters, the Lakers coughed it up an additional 8 times in the fourth quarter alone, and Miami made them pay in transition to turn the close affair into a blowout.
What it means: L.A. went 4-3 on its all-important Grammy trip. Not the end of the world, but at 24-28, they didn't do themselves any favors, especially with Pau Gasol out for the next 6-8 weeks. Blowing that sure win in Phoenix hurts even more now after they squandered the game in Miami.
Hits: The Lakers had four players with 15 points or more and shot 50 percent as a team (35-for-70).
Misses: The Heat outscored the Lakers 19-4 in fast-break points.
Miami outrebounded L.A. 38-29.
Stat of the night: Metta World Peace shot 3-for-11 from the field, extending his shooting slump to 13 straight games shooting less than 50 percent from the field. World Peace has been particularly bad as of late, going 22-for-82 in his past seven games.