Heat beats Lakers 101-95 for 6th straight victory

Kobe Bryant viewed playing the Miami Heat on Christmas Day as a

measuring stick of how well his Achilles tendon was holding up.

That was before he fractured his left knee.

Bryant’s second major injury of the season kept him out of

Wednesday’s game, a 101-95 loss in which the Lakers were

competitive until the final 8 1/2 minutes.

Tied 83-all, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James took control for the

Heat, who outscored the Lakers 20-12 to close out their sixth

straight victory and improve to 5-0 against Los Angeles on the

holiday.

”We’re not better than we were last year, but it’s only

December,” said James, who scored 19 points. ”I believe we can be

better than the team that won in June. This is a process. We don’t

want to play championship ball right now.”

Chris Bosh and Wade led Miami with 23 points apiece. Bosh had 11

rebounds and Ray Allen made four 3-pointers for 12 points for the

defending NBA champions.

”You have to make shots, you have to execute,” James said.

”We did a little bit of both.”

The teams meet again in Miami on Jan. 23. Bryant isn’t expected

to play then either. He’s out four to six weeks because of his

knee.

Before his latest injury, Bryant missed nearly eight months

while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. He played his first

game on Dec. 8, then got hurt again on Dec. 17 at Memphis.

”It’s just been slow in terms of laying off it and letting it

heal,” Bryant said before the game. ”When you don’t have

activity, you got to watch the other parts like nutrition.”

Typical of Bryant’s attention to detail, he said he has been

reading critical comments that suggest he won’t return this

season.

”It’s the same old tune, just being sung a little more loudly

now,” he said. ”These type of things just help me lock in

more.”

Asked if there’s any chance he won’t be back, Bryant replied,

”Not that I’m aware of.”

James said, ”When he comes back he’s going to play at a high

level.”

The injury left Bryant unable to extend his NBA record for

Christmas Day appearances to 16.

”It’s not as special when Kobe’s not out there,” said James,

who shared a postgame hug with Bryant.

Streaky reserve Nick Young scored 20 points for the Lakers, who

were tied four times in the fourth quarter. Jodie Meeks added 17

points, Xavier Henry had 14 and Pau Gasol added 13 points and 13

rebounds.

Miami shot 51 percent from the field while improving to 7-0

against the Western Conference this season. It was its 19th

straight win overall against West opponents.

Bosh scored 13 of his 23 points in the first half, when Miami

trailed 27-21 after the first quarter.

”I just made an effort to get to the basket a little more,” he

said. ”We just kept wearing on them offensively. They made some

tough shots.”

Los Angeles shot 42 percent in its third straight loss. The

Lakers were 14 of 36 from 3-point range as they tried to go over

the top to beat the Heat’s rugged interior.

”Teams will try to get us moving and play out of our

rotations,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. ”Early on they were

getting some wide-open ones. Some of those Nick Young hit were

tough.”

Jordan Farmar returned from a left hamstring tear after missing

10 games, giving the Lakers a true point guard to run the offense.

But he was ineffective, with three points and two assists in 32

minutes.

”I hadn’t even played 5-on-5 since I got hurt, so this is the

first time I’ve actually played basketball,” he said.

”Health-wise, everything stayed intact and I felt good out there,

so it’s progress.”

The Lakers played a competitive game against the loaded Heat

despite their poor shooting and the absence of Bryant, Steve Nash

(nerve root irritation) and Steve Blake (right elbow). They led by

10 points and never trailed by more than that.

”I thought we attacked them the way we wanted to,” Lakers

coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”We can step it up a bit and be a little

bit tougher, especially on the boards and places like that. Those

things are irritating, but the effort is good.”

Young’s basket tied the game for the last time at 83-all. The

Heat promptly took off on a 13-5 run. Wade, Norris Cole and James

scored all of the Heat’s points.

Young answered with his fourth 3-pointer of the game and Meeks

made 1 of 2 free throws to pull the Lakers to 96-92 with 1:26 to

play. But Wade had an acrobatic reverse layup and James made two

foul shots to give Miami some breathing room.