In a Christmas day matchup, the Heat defeated the host Lakers 101-95 to claim their sixth consecutive win and improve to 22-6 on the season. L.A. dropped to 13-16 with their third straight loss.
• Heat do just enough to win comfortably. Fans of the injury-ravaged Lakers could be forgiven if their Christmas goal was simply for their team to avoid the type of homecourt embarrassment endured by the Nets and Knicks earlier Wednesday. L.A. indeed managed to achieve a level of respectability that eluded both Brooklyn (lost by 17) and New York (lost by 29), but they never truly threatened a grooving Miami squad capable of dispatching half of the NBA while playing in fourth gear. The Heat seemed to take a gentlemanly approach to the night: they dictated the action when it mattered and they offered moments of excitement without embarrassing a Lakers team playing in the holiday showcase without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Steve Blake.
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The respective states of the two franchises could be easily seen in the most obvious juxtaposition of the night.
In the second quarter, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took off for the races, as they often do, drawing oohs and aahs from the Staples Center crowd when Wade lofted an alley-oop pass off the backboard to James, who smoothly finished the dunk with his left hand. The "Big 3" Heat have come to specialize in making these "never seen that before" highlights look routine, and the basket served as the exclamation point on a night in which James, Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 65 points (on 49 shot attempts), 25 rebounds and 13 assists.
"Any time D-Wade gets it in transition, I try to chase him down," James said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. "He went off glass, and the only way I could contain it was with my left, so I improvised."
Fast-forward to the midpoint of the third quarter, and it was the Lakers' turn to make the most of a transition opportunity. Jodie Meeks opened things up with a steal, and L.A. set up a lumbering Pau Gasol with a point-blank shot. The Spanish big man lost his handle, though, and the ball caromed off the backboard, an unintentional replication of Wade's highlight dime. A trailing Jordan Farmar hustled down the offensive rebound, but he missed a putback attempt that was decidedly below the rim. Miami cleared the rebound and took off the other way for -- what else? -- a Wade-to-James dunk attempt that forced a Lakers timeout.
On one side: a finely-tuned machine making excellence a habit. On the other: a well-meaning mishmash just trying to get by. Moral victories might be for minor-league coaches, to quote Jay-Z, but at least the competitive showing in a losing effort spared L.A. the gloomy frustration and messy finger-pointing that consumed the Big Apple on Christmas.
• Nick Young tried. A hearty round of chortles went up in response to the NBA's decision to include Nick Young alongside James in promotional artwork for the NBA's centerpiece Christmas game. The jokes were understandable: eight of the other nine players featured in the Christmas Day art have at least one All-Star appearance to their name, and Stephen Curry, the only exception, will surely join the club this February. With Bryant out, the available options for the Lakers weren't all that appetizing, although Gasol (a four-time All-Star) probably has a legitimate claim to top billing. Nevertheless, the league's marketing minds opted for the laugh-a-minute Young, who delivered both before and during the game on Christmas.
"Swaggy P" arrived to the arena in an all-red ensemble that included a festive head scarf. Via the Lakers on Vine
Nick Young's Christmas attire. (Lakers on Vine)
A brief third-quarter explosion -- Young scored nine straight points for the Lakers during an 85-second stretch -- briefly made it seem as if a Christmas miracle might be in the offing, but the Swagman giveth and the Swagman taketh away. Young could only muster five points in the final period, as the Heat won the quarter 25-21 and squelched the possibility of an upset bid before it could unfold. Even still, Young, who was recently named to The Point Forward's All-Stocking Stuffers Team, finished with a team-high 20 points (on 7-for-18 shooting) for the Lakers.
• "Big 3" Christmas sneakers. Bosh got the party started with a light-up "Bumble" the abominable snow monster Christmas sweater before the game, and all three Heat stars wore holiday-themed kicks on the court. The Point Forward will have a full sneaker roundup later Wednesday, but here's a sneak peek.
First up, James' "LeBron 11" signature Nike sneakers.
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Next: Wade's Li-Ning holiday shoes.
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images
Finally, Bosh in seasonally appropriate Nikes.
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