Whenever Lebron is in town and it is late December and it is eighty degrees outside then it must be Christmas but the annual holiday game had another meaning for the Lakers besides national television exposure: they were bruised and battered after losing two games in a row, games in which they were humiliated. Now they had to face the Miami Heat.
But before the game started, hope came wrapped as a gift in Jordan Farmer who was back after missing ten games. As predicted for a D’Antoni team, in the first five minutes the Lakers took plenty of quick shots. Jodie Meeks was fluid from the perimeter. Pau made two mid range jumpers. But they still had to figure out a way to contain Lebron. He was unstoppable around the rim. He had one lob dunk from Wade that was jaw dropping. It was Nick Young’s assignment to try to stop him. The Lakers kept pushing their pace. Ryan Kelly came off the bench and made a three. Henry had a steal off of Chalmers and a lay up and a foul. The Lakers were up by six at the end of the first quarter.
Contrary to popular opinion the Heat are not perfect. The turn the ball over at the same rate as the Lakers. They are last in rebounding because they choose to play a small, fast team rather than a big slow team. The Lakers had eight offensive rebounds, the Heat had none halfway into the second quarter. Jordan Hill had his way with Chris Anderson as he finished around the rim. Nick Young struggled early and it continued into the second quarter as he missed open shots. He was 1-8 in the first half. On defense, matched up against Ray Allen, Nick rotated too late. The Lakers bench was once again efficient outscoring Miami, getting to the line, outrebounding them. But the speed and athleticism of the Heat took over the game midway through the quarter. Chris Bosh made a layup. Jordan Farmar turned the ball over. Chris Bosh made another layup. Mario Chalmers stole the ball from Farmar. Chris Bosh made a jumper; he dominated the latter half of the second quarter. The Lakers lead turned into a seven point deficit as Miami upped their defensive intensity. The Heat scored 30 points in the quarter, the Lakers 19. This was D’Antoni ball at its worst. Missed three after missed three. The Lakers were 6-20 on threes late in the second quarter. Miami took advantage by running the ball down the Lakers throats. Simply put, this was a microcosm of the last two games. Missed shots, dunks and layups for the other team. And no defense. The Heat built a ten point lead and by half time they led 51-46.
In the third quarter consecutive threes by Meeks gave the Lakers a two point lead. But Chalmers answered back with a three to give the Heat a one point lead. The Heat figured out there was no one on the Lakers physical enough to stop Bosh. He was the Heat leading scorer along with Wade. One sequence in the game encapsulated the Lakers season. Jodie Meeks stole the ball from Chalmers and both Gasol and Farmar missed layups which led to a Lebron James dunk and the Lakers trailed by seven again. The Lakers were shooting 36%. They were outrebounded and had six less assists than the Heat with five minutes left in the quarter. As for the Heat they were shooting as expected against a D’Antoni coached team, 54%. Once Nick Young came in he infused the team with his energy, making a four point play and the Lakers trailed by two. But none of the Lakers big men blocked out Bosh and he had consecutive offensive rebounds. The Lakers turned the ball over and missed shots. But at the end of the third Nick Young hit a tough three over Lebron James and the Heat led 76—73.
The fourth quarter started with a dunk by Xavier and then a layup while the rest of the Heat players watched. In one sequence Ryan Kelly beat the entire Heat team down the floor. While Lebron was on the bench the Lakers reserves outplayed the Heat reserves. They got into the paint and created contact and went to the line though the Lakers struggled making their free throws. Their weakness as a team is making shots and their inability to score against a defense that plays in transition cost them the lead. With five minutes left Miami led 88-83 without Lebron James on the floor. With him back on the court the Lakers did not guard Wade. Farmar turned the ball over. No one guarded Wade (again). This is where being the second worst defensive team in the NBA ruins any chance at victory. The Heat shot 51%. They scored twice as many points in the paint as the Lakers. They had 14 more assists. They forced the Lakers into 17 turnovers. And the beat goes on, different team, same script. The Lakers lose again, their third straight game.
Player of the Game- Chris Bosh. 23 points, 11 rebounds, 4 offensive rebounds. He started 0-6 then figured out no one on the Lakers could or wanted to stop him in the paint.
Highlight Reel- Wade lob to Lebron in the first quarter. Spectacular.
Stupidest Play of the Game- Ryan Kelly on Lebron James. A three point play for James, a seat on the bench for Kelly.
He said what?- Mike D’Antoni: “We can be tougher. It’s irritating.” Jordan Farmar: “I felt like I have not played basketball for a month.” Nick Young: “Shoes were not working for me. I should burn those shoes. If you look good you play good.”
This Much is True- The Heat have a certain luxury. They are talented and athletic and are the defending champions. While they did not play as hard as the Lakers they have the privilege to be able to coast through games because talent trumps effort. The Lakers had to play perfect to win. They were not perfect; they lost.
The next game for the Lakers is Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers. See the game live by getting your Lakers vs. Sixers tickets now!