Coming in winners of six straight games, the Los Angeles Lakers were looking to keep rolling as they welcomed one of the top Eastern Conference teams in the Miami Heat to town.
While the Heat stayed with them for most of the night, the Lakers defense proved to be too much in the second half, resulting in a 95-80 victory.
The Lakers finally got off to a hot start to a game as they bottled up the Heat and raced out to an early 11-2 lead behind some baskets from Avery Bradley, who returned to the starting lineup after missing a game. However, that early momentum started to fade as Miami’s bench picked up the tempo and managed to narrow the deficit.
Los Angeles was able to settle back down and build their lead back up thanks to some steady play from Alex Caruso. A couple of Anthony Davis buckets pushed the Lakers lead back to seven going into the second quarter.
The Lakers opened up the second quarter moving the ball well on offense as they were able to generate great looks at the rim. But the Heat continued to hang around thanks to some careless turnovers and several trips to the free-throw line.
Miami’s utilization of a zone defense seemed to cause some difficulties for Los Angeles as they had issues getting good looks and forcing some difficult shots.
As a result, head coach Frank Vogel decided to go small with Davis at center where he was able to help open up the floor and attack the heart of the Heat zone. While it seemed to help, the purple and gold went into the half only up two.
It was much of the same for both teams in the third quarter as the Lakers and Heat traded baskets with neither team being able to truly capture momentum. However, the All-Star duo of Davis and LeBron James began to get going when the two looked to take over on offense.
Davis, in particular, continued his efficient night from the field as he routinely took advantage of the Heat’s smaller frontcourt en route to several good passes and shot attempts. His efforts helped the Lakers finally establish some second-half momentum as they went into the final period up 12.
Groan Dragic went on a quick 5-0 run of his own to begin the fourth that cut the Los Angeles lead to single digits, but James once again provided some offense to help keep his former team at bay. The defense, like it has most of this season, dramatically picked up and was able to suffocate Miami down the stretch.
With time quickly running down, James managed to hit a couple of threes down the stretch that effectively helped put Miami away for good.
In what was their best defensive performance of the season, the Lakers held the Heat to just 34 points in the second half and 14 in the fourth quarter.
Miami shot just 35 percent from the field on the night and an abysmal 17.1 percent (6-for-35) from three-point range.