In what was expected to be a marquee showdown between the Miami
Heat and Los Angeles Lakers is instead shaping up as a one-sided
LeBron James and the Heat go for a sixth consecutive win as they
visit the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers on Christmas Day.
While the NBA was hoping to showcase James and Bryant during its
nationally televised five-game slate, this contest won’t have
nearly the same appeal with Bryant again on the sidelines. Bryant,
the league’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 31,700 points, is
out with a fractured knee after missing the first six weeks while
recovering from a torn Achilles.
James, meanwhile, is coming off one of his best efforts of the
season, posting 38 points, eight rebounds and six assists in
Monday’s 121-119 overtime win over Atlanta. Miami (21-6) trailed by
as many as 11 in third quarter and seven with 90 seconds left in
regulation before storming back.
“Obviously, after going through what we experienced last year in
The Finals, it’s never over,” James said. “So we just keep fighting
until the end.”
The Heat, averaging 114.2 points during their winning streak,
are 16-2 when scoring more than 100. They are 9-0 when James scores
at least 27.
That doesn’t bode well for the Lakers (13-15), who have had
their hands full with James over the years. The four-time NBA MVP
is averaging 29.8 points over his last 13 matchups versus Los
“He’s playing at a very, very high level, gets better every
year, which is scary,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You try to
just contain him as well as you can.”
James totaled 71 points and shot 67.4 percent as Miami swept
last season’s two-game series. The Heat have taken six of seven
from the Lakers dating to March 2010.
Los Angeles has dropped six of nine overall after getting blown
out 117-90 at Phoenix on Monday. The Lakers were held to 37.0
percent shooting and outrebounded 62-39.
Nick Young shot 6 of 17 but finished with a team-high 19 points
off the bench, and Jodie Meeks scored 18. Pau Gasol was limited to
10 on 4-of-12 from the field after missing the previous game due to
an upper respiratory infection.
“Right now Phoenix is a better team than us, especially in the
condition we are in,” D’Antoni said. “We are fighting with a bunch
of good guys that played well before and they will play again. …
We are not going to give up.”
In addition to missing Bryant, the Lakers are dealing with
injuries to Steve Nash (back) and Steve Blake (elbow). Fellow point
guard Jordan Farmar, though, has been cleared to play and is set to
make his first start after missing the last 10 games with hamstring
“We need to get some playmaking back in there,” D’Antoni said of
Farmar, who is averaging 9.2 points in 18.9 minutes.
The Lakers could also use a big performance from Gasol, who is
averaging 14.8 points – 3.5 less than his career mark. Los Angeles
is 9-5 when he scores at least 15 compared to 4-9 when he
Gasol has managed 11 and 12 points in his last two games versus
The Heat have won 18 consecutive regular-season matchups against
the Western Conference, including six this season by an average of
14.9 points. Only one of those victories, though, came on the road,
where Miami is averaging 100.0 points compared to 108.1 at
Dwyane Wade could return after sitting out Monday to rest his
knees. Wade is averaging 25.8 points and shooting 60.0 percent over
his last four games.