The close scoreline of 101-95 doesn’t tell the whole story. The Miami Heat were too good for the Los Angeles Lakers by more than six points, but it seemed many times that LeBron James was a lot more about enjoying the moment and putting on a show along with Dwyane Wade than actually winning this game decisively.
You can’t erase the effort and the performance the Los Angeles Lakers put on, with Nick Young (20 points) and Jodie Meeks (17 points) being especially effective. The Lakers tried to attack the Heat’s defense early and tried gambling on defense. In short? Making it a quick game that will give them a better chance of winning it. They simply didn’t have enough to overcome the talent and the focus of the Heat when they decided to get serious.
James talked during half time about wanting to put on a show for the audience. And so he did, especially in the first half, finishing an alley oop play with power and later teaming up with Dwyane Wade to dunk a ball off the backboard with his offhand. In the third quarter, he enjoyed spicing things up a bit by dunking the ball and hanging on the rim for a few seconds. It felt as if he was trying to get the Lakers and their fans to care about the game, to feel like they have a chance. Just like in the second quarter, the Heat had enough with making it a close one and simply pulled away late.
While the Lakers were able to compete with the Heat offensively thanks to some great shooting from Young and Meeks, their defense was non existent. The Heat scored 58 points in the paint, as LeBron James finished with 6-of-6 from the field when driving (1-of-8 from outside the paint), while Dwyane Wade scored 20 of his 23 points from a short distance as well. Chris Bosh also had 23 points with the big three combining to score 65 points.
Another example of how much James cared about this game as a spectacle and not just a win for the Heat? I knew we would get a good game out of them, and I think the NBA wanted a good game. It’s not as special when Kobe’s not out there.
So the Lakers felt good about their chances of improving thanks to a motivation fueled performance which ended in a loss. Reasons to feel good? Their point guards, Farmar at least, are starting to come back, which is something to cling on to. Other than that, their battles and expectations of picking up wins are elsewhere.
The Miami Heat showed resolve and focus, playing the kind of defense they’re known for when it mattered. Sure, they could have made it an easier game with a bit more venom from James and Wade, but it feels like they’ve grown into their role as the best team in the NBA a bit too much, feeling like they have an obligation to more than just themselves, but the fanbase of the league, caring enough to take it down a notch in order to make it into a more competitive game.