Kobe Bryant said he wasn’t looking for revenge, and the Dwyane Wade “incident” was behind. And then he went out and scored 33 points, to lead the Los Angeles Lakers in their first win over the Big Three Era Miami Heat, a 95-85 win as LeBron James felt too alone in a game he couldn’t win on his own.
Bryant erupted in the first quarter, scoring 18 points and playing some fierce defense on Dwyane Wade who was fouled out after a picking up four fouls very shortly late in the game, including two offensive fouls and another one that could have been avoided, bumping into Bryant. He didn’t have the best of the games, finishing with 16 points as the Heat struggled offensively and forcing their brand of basketball on the game.
LeBron James was busy guarding big men like Pau Gasol most of the game, finishing with another impressive stat line of 25 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Not enough without Chris Bosh, still out for personal reasons, and the Lakers enjoying complete dominance in the paint.
Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem did little to disturb Andrew Bynum (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (11 points, 10 rebounds), with Haslem especially disappointing, following his jump shot miss that would’ve won them the game against the Jazz. He finished with 0 points and 0-5 from the field, as Spoelstra decided to go small for most of the game due to Haslem’s struggles.
The small ball worked for a while, but every time the Heat got close, someone was there to bury a big three for the Lakers. Steve Blake made one off the bench, but the biggest and most surprising contribution came from Metta World Peace, woken up from his year long slumber. He finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds and four steals, doing a great job on James late in the game while making two huge threes. Suddenly, the Lakers had a small forward, and forgot about their point guard problems.
Mario Chalmers was great for the Heat, hitting four from the outside and bringing his usual, pestering defense, flourishing when he doesn’t have to be the playmaker. Again, it wasn’t for the Heat who struggled against a very good Lakers defense who dominated the interior, leaving Miami to settle for jumpers. Shane Battier played great defense on Bryant, but was terrible with his shooting, making only one of seven three point attempts, while no one else from the bench really stepped up.
Bryant slept for two quarters, frustrated by Battier, but returned to his usual ways in the fourth, eventually finishing with 33 points in a game you finally felt Bryant not forcing himself on the finish or the offense, limiting himself to only two three point attempts.
Are these the real Lakers? Pretty much. At home, this is the best of them. Problems start when they go on the road, or face a team with a bit more interior presence. Lets not forget, the Heat didn’t have Chris Bosh, who is their only offensively capable big man. The Lakers got a big boost as Bryant continues to impress with his mask, but they’re far from being capable of winning the NBA title.