LOS ANGELES -- The Miami Heat might have come into this one playing on the second night of a back-to-back and their sixth road game in nine days to wrap up a road trip and the Los Angeles Lakers might have been under .500, but none of that backstory mattered to anybody who watched on Thursday.
For most of the night it was a nip-and-tuck affair, with LeBron James playing lights-out (39 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (27 points on 11-for-20 shooting) having the type of effort to satisfy him on his 31st birthday, but the Lakers still managed to keep it close thanks to a late surge by Kobe Bryant & Co.
How it happened: Miami ran out to an early 8-2 lead off of four dunks before the Lakers managed to finally take the lead 45-44 at halftime. The Heat pushed their lead back to eight by the end of the third quarter before L.A. used a 14-3 run to take the lead back in the fourth.
After Bryant hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 90-90 with just more than two minutes remaining, the Heat went on a 9-0 run thanks to two buckets by Ray Allen and a nail-in-the-coffin jumper by James with 49.0 seconds left, followed by an and-1 dunk by James with 5.8 seconds left to seal it.
What it means: The Lakers are past the point of moral victories. The reality of the situation is they're 17-22 and couldn't hang with one of the league's elite once again for a full 48 minutes. Yes, the Lakers could have won this game, but the fact is they didn't. They can't afford to let W's slip away at this point.
Hits: Pau Gasol returned from missing five games because of a concussion to put up 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes off the bench.
Antawn Jamison also scored in double digits as a substitute for the fourth straight game (12 points on 4-for-7 shooting along with six rebounds), helping the Lakers bench outscore the Heat's 24-18.
Misses: The Lakers had 16 turnovers in the first half, leading to 19 points for the Heat. L.A. protected the ball better in the second half, but it still ended up with 20 turnovers leading to 23 Miami points. The Heat coughed it up just six times, leading to two points for L.A.
Stat of the night: There were 13 ties and nine lead changes in the game, but that 9-0 run by Miami is the story of the game in a nutshell.
What's next: The Lakers pack their bags and take their 5-12 road record with them as they embark on a brutal stretch with 10 of their next 13 games away from Staples Center. It starts Sunday in Toronto against a Raptors team that is both young and athletic, tipping off their game at 1 p.m. ET. It seems as if the Lakers regularly struggle with early starts, so it could be more of a challenge than Toronto's sub-.500 records suggests it should be.