5:00 PM ET, December 25, 2010
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
"Just asked him what he got for Christmas," James said.
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The Lakers took a Christmas vacation, leaving fans and players alike to suffer through an embarrassing effort, Ramona Shelburne writes. Story
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Although the two superstars wouldn't reveal what angry words they exchanged, it wasn't tough to pick out a few statements Saturday. While Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers got a disturbing first look at the Miami Heat, LeBron got the last word at Staples Center yet again.
James had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists while hitting a season-high five 3-pointers, and the Heat thrived on the holiday stage in a 96-80 victory.
Although both teams called the game a television curiosity rather than a potential NBA Finals preview, it clearly meant something to James, who had his third triple-double with Miami and the 31st of his career. James also outplayed Bryant, who scored 17 points, in his second straight Christmas win in the Lakers' home arena, following last season's victory for LeBron's Cavaliers.
"We're not trying to make a statement to anyone," James said. "We're trying to show each other that we can play at a high level and try to get better every game. This is one game. ... We're happy because we got better today."
While the Heat realize Boston and Orlando are much more important obstacles to their championship hopes, and while the Lakers don't get terribly excited about playing anybody until the playoffs, there was a palpable edge in the crowd at Staples Center for this intersectional matchup -- until the Heat's steady defensive effort flattened the Lakers in the second half.
Chris Bosh had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Dwyane Wade added 18 points on a sore knee and the Heat won for the 14th time in 15 games while flustering the two-time defending champions into a terrible offensive performance, starting with Los Angeles' 14-point first quarter.
"Our whole thing is just playing solid defense the whole game," Bosh said. "That's the primary part of our identity. Our backbone right now is defense."
James played a balanced, patient game, even after a technical foul near halftime for an under-the-basket scuffle with Lakers defensive stopper Ron Artest. James' teammates contributed enough to keep the Heat comfortably ahead, with Bosh playing an outstanding first half and Mario Chalmers contributing 13 points in a reserve role, including three 3-pointers.
Miami's much ballyhooed Big Three dominated the Lakers's power trio of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
"Offensively, it's probably the most trust and the most poise we've played [with] this season," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Pau Gasol scored 17 points for the Lakers, who fell behind early and never caught up to the tantalizing new contenders for their title. Although Bryant wore garish green shoes for the holiday, his Lakers simply didn't raise their games to meet the spotlight that follows Miami, falling well behind in the first half and never making a run.
Bryant, who picked up his third technical foul in two games, was visibly displeased with his teammates throughout the second half.
"It's like these games mean more to our opponents than they do to us," Bryant said. "I think we need to get that straight -- play with more focus, put more [emphasis] on these games. I don't like it. ... We know what we're capable of doing, and that's part of the problem."
Lamar Odom had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost two straight at home after winning five in a row on the road, following up Tuesday's collapse against Milwaukee with this high-profile flop. While Odom thinks the Lakers are overconfident, Bryant believes the problems start in practice.
"Individually, you have to make that decision on what's important," Bryant said. "The game has to be the most important thing. ... This is serious stuff. You don't just have two rings and say, 'That's enough. We're satisfied with what we've got.' I'm not going to let that slide."
Coach Phil Jackson dislikes the Lakers' annual spot on the NBA's Christmas schedule, and perhaps for reasons beyond the season: Los Angeles dropped to 4-8 on Christmas since 1999, including last season's one-sided loss to Cleveland, which ended with dozens of giveaway foam hands getting thrown on the court.
Players on both teams broke out festive holiday sneakers for the occasion, including lime-green Nike kicks on Bryant, Gasol and Odom. James and Bosh wore holiday-red shoes with garish green laces.
James got his T shortly afterward for shoving Artest under the basket with 10 seconds left in the first half after Artest wrapped nearly his entire arm around James' neck while battling for rebounding position.
"I was in a WWE headlock, and I was trying to get out of it," James said.
The Lakers had won five straight home games against Miami, including last season's win on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer banked in over Wade's defense by Bryant, who called it the luckiest shot of his career. ... Artest dived into the Miami bench in the third quarter chasing his own turnover, nearly flattening Miami's Jamaal Magloire. ... Fans near courtside included Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, Larry David, Kanye West, will.i.am, Gabrielle Union, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Piven, Christian Slater and Lionel Richie.
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 25: Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 of the Miami Heat arrives before taking on the Los Angeles...(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||35-79 (.443)||32-79 (.405)|
|3PM-3PA||9-25 (.360)||6-19 (.316)|
|FTM-FTA||17-20 (.850)||10-15 (.667)|
|Fast Break Points||4||1|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (2/0)||23 (2/0)|
Next 5 Games
Over the last 15 games, the Heat have been scorching. They have held each of their last 15 opponent under 100 points, allowing on average just 86.7 PPG. After being outrebounded by a slim margin over its first 17 games, Miami is averaging 6.0 rebounds per game more than their opponents since.[+]
Warming Up In The Winter - Heat This Season
Saturday marked the 14th head-to-head matchup between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. James has now won nine of the meetings, averaging 27.5 points per game while contributing over seven assists and seven rebounds. Kobe has averaged 24.9 points against James but is shooting just 40.8 percent in those contests.[+]
Saturday matched the 14th matchup between D-Wade and Kobe, and with the Heat win, each now have seven wins in the head-to-head series. While Kobe is averaging 28.6 points on 45.2 percent shooting, Wade is averaging a hair under 26 points, to go with 7.1 assists per game.[+]
2nd straight season the Lakers have run into trouble with LeBron on Christmas day. Last year, the Cavs beat up on the Lakers by 15 points, while LeBron went for 26 points and 9 assists. This year, he recorded the 7th Xmas Day triple-header in NBA history, becoming the 4th different player to do so... in leading the Heat to the 16-pt win.[+]
Lakers on Christmas Day - Last 2 Years
From Elias: LeBron James records the 7th triple-double in NBA history and is just the 4th player to do it joining 3 hall-of-famers... it was James' 3rd triple-double this season and 31st of his career..[+]
Triple-Doubles on Christmas Day - NBA History
The Lakers had no answers for the Heat's stifling defense tonight. The back-to-back defending champions were held well below their season averages in points, shooting percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage. The result, a 2nd straight blowout home loss. The Bucks beat the Lakers by 19 back on Tuesday. HEAT STROKE THIS SEASON >SEASON AVG TONIGHT vs HEAT PPG 105.2 80 FG pct 46.3 40.5 3-pt FG pct 37.7 31.6 FT pct 79.9 66.7 >ENTERING TONIGHT
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