In the midst of a franchise record-tying 48-point loss to the Utah Jazz and the off court issues regarding the team’s trust level with D’Angelo Russell, the Los Angeles Lakers still had to prepare to host the Miami Heat Wednesday night at Staples Center. Although most of the season has been a struggle as the team is on the verge of breaking last season’s 21-61 record for the worst in franchise history, the Lakers come in losing eight of their last nine games with only eight games remaining in Kobe Bryant’s legendary 20-year career.
But putting the team’s struggles and issues to the side, this game will be remembered as the last matchup between Bryant and three-time champion Dwyane Wade. With Bryant’s status for games usually a toss up until game time, Wade said last week if Kobe didn’t play then he wouldn’t play either. Luckily for both parties and basketball fans around the world, they’re both suiting up tonight.
Similar to the battles he’s had with LeBron James and other superstars around the league, Bryant’s had a history with Wade throughout the years so it isn’t surprising that the 12-year Miami veteran would want one last shot at the Black Mamba before he calls it quits. Expect both competitors to go at each other from the start in respect for each other’s illustrious careers.
Miami would start the scoring on a Luol Deng putback slam, but Kobe quickly tied the game on his first field goal of the night. Both teams traded baskets before the Heat would go on a 13-0 run to put them up 15-7 led by Goran Dragic with a little over six minutes remaining. D’Angelo Russell ended the run with a three-point play. It wasn’t a welcoming introduction for Russell, as he was booed during the player intros and would continue to get booed every time he touched the ball. Throughout the quarter we saw the matchup everyone came to see tonight: Kobe versus Wade. Wade got the best of Bryant in the first few possessions, blocking Kobe on a jumper and then had a dunk in transition after guarding him a few possessions later. The offensive drought would continue for the Lakers as the Heat would make the earlier 13-0 run a 21-3 run to give them a 25-10 lead with 3:23 remaining. However, after the the timeout, the Lakers finished the quarter on a 15-2 run (which started as an 11-0 run) of their own capped by back-to-back slams by Larry Nance Jr. and Brandon Bass to cut the deficit to two. At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers trailed 27-25.
A Ryan Kelly fadeaway tied the game at 27 to start the quarter. After Deng scored on a second chance opportunity, the Lakers briefly regained a 31-30 lead on a Lou Williams three-pointer. Wade checked back into the game and immediately made his presence felt. He scored the next two Heat baskets followed by back-to-back jumpers by Johnson to give Miami a 40-32 with 5:33 remaining. Out of the timeout, the Lakers closed the gap withconsecutive baskets by Roy Hibbert and D’Angelo Russell to make it a three-point deficit. With 1:17 remaining, Jordan Clarkson scored on a nice crossover to make it a 46-41 score. The Lakers shot a brutal 31.4 percent through the first two quarters and trailed 48-41 at the half. Wade had 12 points compared to Kobe’s lone mid-range jumper on Los Angeles’ first basket. Deng led all scorers with 14.
Larry Nance Jr. replaced Kobe Bryant to start the second half as he would be done for the night due to general soreness. Clarkson knocked down a pair of free throws to begin the scoring but Deng would continue his hot shooting on a three-pointer to make it a 51-43 game. After a brief 5-0 run by the Lakers, both teams would exchange baskets until Clarkson regained the lead for Los Angeles on a three-pointer with 6:09 remaining. The Heat called timeout to stop the Lakers’ run and both teams kept trading punches throughout the quarter. With the Lakers up 63-61, Julius Randle found Brandon Bass for the three-point play. The next play, Hassan Whiteside had a three-point play of his own after he threw down a viscous dunk and was fouled by Marcelo Huertas. The Lakers controlled most of the quarter and were tied at 67 a piece at the end of three.
The Lakers took the lead to start the fourth on a Roy Hibbert putback. Huertas made his presence felt early in the quarter by sneaking a steal from Goran Dragic and then giving Los Angeles their biggest lead of the game up until this point (74-68) on a 6-foot runner. Out of Miami’s timeout, Deng scored on a layup to move him up to 19 points but Hibbert would follow it up with a six-foot bank shot. Huertas continued impacting the game on another running jumper to give the Lakers a 78-70 lead. But Whiteside scored four straight points on a jumper and two free throws to cut the lead in half. Justice Winslow would then score on a coast-to-coast layup to make it a 78-76 score, forcing the Lakers to take a timeout. Most of the starters would come back for both teams after the timeout since we were closing in the six minute mark. Clarkson hit two crucial 16-foot jumpers in the next two minutes to give the Lakers a 82-79 lead with under five minutes to play. Similar to what we saw all game, both teams continued to exchange punches as neither team could pull away late in the fourth. Wade made it a one point game with 1:43 with back-to-back scores for Miami. Less than a thirty seconds later, the three-time champion scored again on a layup to give Miami a 85-84 lead. Randle would get fouled on the next play and make one of two free throws to tie it at 85. With 0:29 seconds left to play, Wade continued the hot shooting as he hit a 15-foot turnaround to give Miami a 87-85 lead. With the Lakers down two, Clarkson got to the foul line and tied it with 0:19 seconds left. Dwyane Wade had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but missed the 20-footer to send the game into overtime.
A minute into overtime, D’Angelo Russell knocked down a three-pointer to give the Lakers a 90-87 lead. Deng would quickly erase the deficit following with a three of his own. Clarkson would regain the lead for Los Angeles with a driving layup to move him up to 22 points. With the Lakers up two, Hassan Whiteside scored six straight for the Heat to give them a 96-94 lead with 2:04 remaining. Both teams continued to exchange baskets as we had a tie game with 1:04 remaining. After drawing a foul on Luol Deng, Julius Randle knocked down both free throws to give the Lakers a 100-98 lead. Wade would again tie the game with a layup after a Lakers turnover, but Randle would come down and hit a tough shot over Luol Deng with 1.9 seconds left to lift the Lakers to a 102-100 victory.