The Los Angeles Lakers returned home on Wednesday night, hosting the Miami Heat in their first game of 2023 at Crypto.com Arena.
Even though the Lakers were severely shorthanded missing three starters in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Lonnie Walker IV, they still came away with a 112-109 victory to improve to 17-21.
Dennis Schroder got off to a nice start, taking the bigger Bam Adebayo to the hole for a layup and then draining a corner 3-pointer. The smaller Lakers starting lineup struggled to protect the paint early though, as can be expected, and the Heat took a 12-9 lead into the first timeout.
Austin Reaves, who got a rare start, got going out of the timeout with some slick layups to help the Lakers regain the lead. Russell Westbrook also made an impact in his first shift, distributing and finding his teammates for good looks.
Even Kendrick Nunn got in on the action, draining a 3-pointer late in the first. Then, Wenyen Gabriel beat the quarter buzzer with a 3 of his own to give the Lakers a 32-23 lead after an impressive quarter.
Westbrook got in on the action from deep with a pair of triples from the right wing to begin the second quarter, extending L.A.’s lead to double digits. The Heat responded with a quick 7-0 run though, forcing Darvin Ham to call timeout.
While the Lakers cooled off from deep and struggled to take care of the ball with 12 first-half turnovers, they still went into the locker room with a 52-48 lead.
Miami tied the game with four quick points to start the second half before Schroder drained another 3. After a quiet first half, Jimmy Butler got going in the third quarter with six straight points to force another Laker timeout. Butler was also making plays for his teammates, finding Adebayo for a three-point play to help the Heat regain the lead.
Unfortunately, the Lakers were also forced to play the second half without Troy Brown Jr. as he joined their laundry list of injuries with a left quad strain.
The teams went back and forth for the majority of the third quarter. After Nunn hit a midrange jumper at the end of the frame, the Lakers took a 79-78 lead into the fourth.
The Heat opened up the final quarter with five straight points before a reverse layup from Juan Toscano-Anderson. Thomas Bryant also got in on the action with a reverse dunk to bring the Lakers within two.
L.A. continued to fight and eventually regained the lead under the five-minute mark when Schroder drilled another 3 right after twisting his ankle. Bryant then completed a three-point play to stretch the lead to five.
The Heat continued to have no answer for Bryant, Westbrook and Schroder and that trio made some huge buckets down the stretch. Butler and Adebayo did their part to keep it within striking distance but Schroder made a layup with 20 seconds left to put the Lakers up four.
Adebayo followed with a putback dunk to get it back to two, which was followed by a Westbrook layup. He was fouled but couldn’t hit the free throw so the lead was at four. Max Strus hit a 3, giving Miami one final chance after Schroder hit two free throws. Butler missed at the buzzer though and the Lakers came away with a massive win.
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