HEAT suffer heart-breaking loss

By GREG BEACHAM,

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant banked

in a 3-pointer over Dwyane Wade’s defense at the buzzer, ending the

superstars’ sensational duel and sending the Los Angeles Lakers to

their eighth straight victory, 108-107 over the Miami HEAT on Friday

night.

Bryant scored 33 points, but his

off-balance bank shot from straightaway over Wade’s outstretched hand

likely will rank among the most incredible shots of his career.

Wade scored nine of his 26 points in

the final 2 minutes, but missed a free throw with 3.2 seconds left to

give Los Angeles one last chance to tie it with a two-point basket.

Bryant went for the win, and his

improbable shot kept the Lakers atop the overall NBA standings while

sending Miami to its eighth loss in 12 games.

The matchup between U.S. Olympic

teammates was the center of an action-packed game featuring a shoving

match between Jermaine O’Neal and Lamar Odom, leading to Odom’s

ejection with 5:07 to play.

Neither star was perfect, with Wade

struggling to a 7-of-21 shooting performance and Bryant missing the

basket entirely on a potential tying shot with 24 seconds to play. Both

came up big in the final seconds, but Bryant was just a bit bigger in

front of his raucous home crowd.

O’Neal had 16 points and 10 rebounds

for the HEAT, who rebounded from an 18-point loss in Denver one night

earlier with an impressive effort against the defending NBA champions.

After Wade put Miami ahead 102-100

with 49 seconds left on an awkward one-handed shot from the baseline,

Miami appeared to sew up its first road win over the Lakers in five

tries when Wade’s two free throws put the HEAT up 106-102 with 9.3

seconds to play.

Instead, Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds to play, setting the stage for Wade’s miss and Bryant’s heroics.

Pau Gasol scored 22 points and

Andrew Bynum added 19 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who had

won seven straight games by double digits while surging to the top of

the standings. After several games against struggling opponents, they

seemed headed to a narrow defeat in their toughest test in weeks – but

Bryant wouldn’t allow it.

In the midst of an underwhelming

start to the season, Miami showed considerable moxie in its third game

in four days. Quentin Richardson hit a 3-pointer with 2:44 to play to

put the HEAT in front before Wade scored nine of their final 11 points.

Moments earlier, O’Neal and Odom

exchanged shoves after Odom fouled O’Neal, who bumped into Odom while

hanging on the rim after his dunk. When Odom reacted angrily, O’Neal

gave him a one-handed shove in the chest, and Odom responded with a

two-handed shove.

Both got technical fouls, but the T was Odom’s second, resulting in his ejection.

Bryant’s duel with Wade didn’t start

out with much excitement: Wade scored one point in the first quarter

and didn’t manage a field goal until throwing down two stellar dunks in

the final 2:04 before halftime. Eluding Bryant’s defense by running off

picks, he delivered a two-handed jam with 40 seconds left to trim Los

Angeles’ lead to one point.

But Bryant wrapped up the first half

with a stunner, drawing contact from two defenders before somehow

banking home a jumper at the buzzer while sprawling onto his back.

Bryant gave an icy stare to the referees who didn’t call a foul while

Staples Center roared – but that was just a warmup for the fantastic

finale.

The Lakers made just one turnover in

the first half, but 1-for-10 3-point shooting allowed Miami to keep it

close. Wade went cold again in the third, going without a field goal

until back-to-back scores put the HEAT ahead late in the period.

NOTES: Gasol fell to the court

writhing in pain with 6:03 to play after Odom poked him in the left eye

while both players tried to block a layup by Richardson. Gasol

eventually got up and sat on the bench for more treatment, but returned

moments later when Odom was ejected. … Lakers coach Phil Jackson said

he discussed Ron Artest’s recent admission of drinking alcohol during

games a decade ago – not to talk about Artest’s drinking, but about his

decision to discuss it with the media.