The Los Angeles Lakers faced off against the Miami Heat Thursday night at the American Airline Arena on the night that former Lakers and Heat great Shaquille O’Neal had his No. 32 Heat jersey retired.
The Lakers were without a few key big men in the game, as both Tarik Black and Larry Nance Jr. missed the game with injuries.
Additionally, starting power forward Julius Randle flew home for the birth of his first child so he was also not in the Lakers lineup.
Rookie Brandon Ingram got the start in Randle’s place, with Luol Deng sliding over to the starting power forward position facing his former team for the first time.
The Lakers came out firing, taking five three-point shots in their first three possessions. Only one of them went in, but Miami also go off to a slow start so the Lakers took a 7-0 lead behind four early points from center Timofey Mozgov.
Miami, who has struggled this season lacking the veteran presence that guys like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Deng have provided in recent seasons, continued to struggle Thursday night as after another layup by Mozgov the Lakers lead expanded to 11-0 causing Erik Spoelstra to call an early timeout.
Second-year forward Justise Winslow scored for Miami out of the timeout, putting the Heat in the scoring column.
Mozgov continued to attack the basket though, as midway through the first he had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, to give the Lakers a 17-10 lead.
James Johnson provided a spark for Miami off the bench to end the first quarter, scoring their last four points and Los Angeles led 25-17 after one.
Seven straight points by Nick Young, including a four-point play, and then a layup by Lou Williams got the Lakers off to a 9-2 run to begin the second quarter causing Spoelstra to call another timeout.
Williams, the leagues leading scorer off the benched, knocked down his next couple of three’s helping the Lakers open up a commanding 42-23 lead. Tyler Johnson answer with a three though to cut the deficit back to 17.
That started a 12-2 run for Miami, cutting the deficit back to single digits at 44-35 midway through the second quarter.
After a dunk by Hassan Whiteside got it down to seven, D’Angelo Russell answer with a three to break the run. He then hit a floater and another three on the next two possessions to get the lead back up to 12 at 52-40.
Whiteside got some easy buckets to close out the quarter, and the Lakers lead was just seven at 60-53 at the half. Whiteside led all scorers with 14 on 7-of-10 shooting, while Williams and Russell were tied for the Lakers lead with 13 points followed by Mozgov who had 12.
Miami started off the third quarter on a 6-0 run, but back-to-back threes by Deng and Young quickly evened that up.
Beginning with that Young three he went on to score the next 11 points for Los Angeles causing a Miami timeout with the Lakers lead back up to double digits at 76-66.
Russell picked up his fourth foul midway through the third, but Lakers head coach Luke Walton opted to keep him in the game and he responded by hitting a turnaround fadeaway jumper over Goran Dragic.
The Lakers offense went cold to close the third quarter, as an 11-0 gave Miami its first lead of the game at 79-78.
Ingram banked in a midrange jumper to beat the shot clock to end the run, but Johnson immediately followed with a three to give the Heat an 82-80 lead at the end of three.
Thomas Robinson drew an offensive foul on Whiteside early in the fourth quarter. Whiteside then stepped over Robinson, causing the two to exchange a few words which earned a double technical foul. Robinson had a put back on the next possession to give the Lakers the lead back, 86-84.
Miami regained the lead on a layup by Johnson, and then Tyler Johnson connected on a three with eight minutes left in the game. Four straight points from Williams tied the game back up though, setting up what looked to be an exciting finish.
Robinson continued to be a force for the Lakers, coming up with an offensive rebound and finding Jordan Clarkson for a layup to give Los Angeles a 94-92 advantage.
That didn’t last long though as Dragic nailed a three after two free throws by Whiteside putting Miami up by three. Russell connected on a midrange jumper on the ensuing possession though to cut it back to one.
The back and forth scoring continued as Williams and Dragic exchanged threes. Tyler Johnson then added a three of his own putting the Heat up six with just over three minutes left causing Walton to call a timeout.
Deng hit a much needed three out of the timeout bring it back to a three point game. Winslow hit a wide open jumper just second later though, as the Lakers defense continued to be unable to get stops.
A floater by Josh Richardson gave Miami a six-point lead with just over a minute left, as the Lakers were running out of time for a possible comeback.
Williams drew a foul on a three-point attempt out of a timeout and drilled all three free throws to cut the deficit to three.
Needing a stop, the Lakers got Winslow to miss a running 10-footer, but Whiteside tipped in the miss. Williams and Young both missed threes on the ensuing possession, securing a 115-107 win for Miami.
Williams led all scorers with 27 points off the bench for the Lakers. Young scored 20 followed by Russell with 17. Robinson had eight points and 12 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.
Whiteside led the Heat with 23 points and 13 rebounds on 9-of-12 shooting while Winslow had one of his best games scoring a career-high 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds, which tied his career-high.
The Lakers finish up their seven-game road trip Friday against the Orlando Magic at 4 p.m. Pacific time.