The biggest game of the season was finally here. The Lakers and Heat have been looking at the calendar all season waiting for this match-up. After the presents had been unwrapped and the stockings were emptied it was time for holiday basketball at Staples Center. After struggles historically on Christmas Day the Lakers were looking to overcome their demons and defeat the Miami Heat in one of the most anticipated games of the season.
The Lakers started the game with a quick dunk from Lamar Odom but went downhill from there. Much like Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Lakers seemed tense and tightly-wound, which resulted in poor offensive rotation and shooting. The biggest story of the first quarter was the struggles of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, both of whom didn’t score in the opening period. While the Lakers offense looked poor, a lot of credit can be given to the Miami defense. The Heat were able to stifle the Lakers offensively and really have them out of their element on most possessions.
Another reason for the Lakers struggles was missed opportunities, especially in the paint. The Lakers missed 13 shots in the paint in the opening quarter alone. That’s nearly 30 possible points that the Lakers were unable to put on the board, and that was key by the end of the quarter.
Miami countered the Lakers with a heavy dose of Chris Bosh. While he is the lesser known of the trio of stars on the Heat, Bosh killed the Lakers in the first half. That plus timely shooting from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had the Heat leading the Lakers 20-14 after one quarter.
The second quarter was similar to the first for the Lakers. They had poor offensive rhythm and movement while continuing to miss easy shots. Bryant finally got on the board for the Lakers, and after starting 0-5 went 3-3 after that. The Lakers also needed more production out of Pau Gasol, who started cold much like Bryant. The game got a little heated as the quarter progressed, as the frustration began to build up for Los Angeles.
After a missed bucket Bryant picked up a technical foul for showing too much frustration towards the officials. Later on in the quarter Artest and James got into it going after a rebound. The replay showed Artest holding James in a headlock, and James responded by shoving Artest. Both players were awarded technicals for their role in the incident.
By the end of the first half the Lakers were looking for answers on both ends of the floor. They couldn’t seem to overcome their offensive jitters, and would need to take a much more calm approach to the second half. After 24 minutes of basketball the Lakers trailed Miami by nine, 47-38.
While many of Los Angeles was expecting a different Lakers team to show up in the second half, the Lakers themselves apparently weren’t thinking that way. Much like the first two quarters the Heat outplayed Los Angeles to start the second half. Artest was the Laker showing the most effort, which culminated in a lunge into the Heat bench chasing a loose ball. However, whenever the Lakers looked like they were going to make a run the Heat were able to answer.
About halfway through the third quarter the Heat were able to extend the lead to 16. The crowd at the Staples Center started to boo and many thought we were in for another game like last season verus Cleveland. However, a Fisher three pointer, Lamar Odom lay-up, and Ron Artest to Pau Gasol alley-oop cut the lead down to 11. For the first time in the game the Lakers had established a little momentum.
That momentum didn’t last long, however, as Miami had an answer for everything the Lakers tried. Through three quarters James was 5-5 from behind the three-point line, and was close to another triple double by the end of the quarter. Entering the fourth quarter the Lakers trailed the Heat 75-64.
Entering the fourth quarter the Lakers trailed by 11 and were looking to make a run to get back into the game. A three point bucket from Shannon Brown cut the lead to single digits, but Bosh pushed it back to 11 after an open lay-up. Poor defense by the Lakers to start the fourth allowed Miami to answer everything they were doing on offense.
The Lakers committed too many turnovers in the fourth and it cost them. Miami pushed the lead to 17 halfway through the quarter, and it seemed inevitable that the Lakers would lose in debilitating fashion once again on Christmas Day.
Little to no bench production and poor outside shooting doomed Los Angeles in the end. Miami does deserve some credit, as they put forth a solid defensive game plan that the Lakers were unable to overcome. The Lakers gave up at the end, and Miami ran up the score. In the end LeBron James and the Heat dismantled the Lakers 96-80.