The game in L.A. began very similar to the game in Denver, with the Heat keeping up to their host. Wade was still shooting from the outside and not hitting, which is very troubling. Rio had a solid first quarter, drilling a pair of treys and running the Heat offense somewhat efficiently.
Unfortunately the Heat closed out the first quarter on a somewhat crappy note. After Dorell Wright couldn't finish a gimme ally oop from D-Wade (how exactly do you miss a wide open dunk?), Ron Artest got his own rebound and scored, trimming the Heat lead to two after the 1st quarter.
Miami came out very careless with the ball in the 2nd quarter, prompting the Lakers to re-take the lead. The Heat were still keeping pace with L.A. but I couldn't get the ‘when will they run out of gas' doubt out of my head. The most troublesome stat was that as the first half winded down Dwyane Wade still did not have a field goal.
He finally broke through with 2:04 left when he got Kobe caught up in a screen and drive right down the middle and jammed it. That made 1-for-7 for Wade. He came right back with a sick 360 move and 2-handed the rim. Kobe hit an equally nasty shot at the buzzer and gave his Lakers a 3-point halftime lead.
Would you believe me if I told you that at halftime the Heat's leading scorer was Mario Chalmers (9), they'd shoot just 53% from the foul line (8-of-15) and still be down by just 3?
Both teams started out slow in the second half, each scoring just one bucket in the first two minutes. Then the baskets started coming fast and furiously, and again the Heat were in the position to try and keep up. Four minutes in the Heat were back down by 6, and it was certainly a turning point for Miami. They responded with 4 straight, as if to say ‘were up to the task'.
The Lakers then went on an 8-2 run to pump the lead up to 8. Just as I was thinking "Can the Heat make any kind of run of their own?", they started scoring and scoring and it turned into a 12-2 run, putting the Heat back up 74-72. The game would go into the 4th quarter tied up at 76.
Kobe Bryant came out and scored 6 straight for the Lakers in a 69 second span, and Erik Spoelstra called a quick timeout to try and stop the bleeding. Not quite...the Lakers were on a 14-5 run and holding a 9-point lead with under 7 minutes left. The Heat started a little run fueled by a pair of Jermaine O'Neal dunks (off of D-Wade assists).
The Heat used an 11-2 run to draw even at 93, then a Q-Rich triple put the Heat up 96-95 with 2:40 left. On the other end, Kobe got a gift of a call when he drove the lane and bumped into Jermaine O'Neal, who appeared to have established position. Nevertheless, J-O was called for the block and of course Bryant hit the layup.
Wade drilled a pair of free throws with just under 2 minutes left to tie the game at 98. Then after a Derek Fisher missed J, Wade drove from one end to the other and scored ‘too easily' to put the Heat up 2 with 1:25 seconds left. Gasol and Wade traded buckets, and then Dwyane draped himself over Kobe Bryant, forcing a very tough fadeaway J as the shock clock expired. Quentin Richardson would find himself back at the foul line with 21 seconds left, and he drilled the pair to put the Heat up 4.
Once again the Lakers would score, and this time it was D-Wade who was at the line needing to keep it a two-possession game. He hit both, putting the Heat on the brink of a ginormous upset. Of course, it's never easy. Derek Fisher hit a three with 4.3 left and Wade would only hit 1-of-2 this time...and the game would come down to one final chance for the Lakers.
Kobe got the ball, traveled, kept going and hit a three off glass to win it. Awesome.
What killed the Heat? Free throws. You can't miss 15 out of 42 and expect to win. That is just terrible. I hope this loss sticks in a lot of our players heads as a loss chalked up to poor foul shooting. Maybe they'll spend just a few more minutes in practice working on those free throws.
- With 2:37 left in the 3rd quarter, Quentin Richardson was fouled in the act of shooting for the firs time this season. He sunk both free throws.
- Michael Beasley was held in check, taking only 8 shots. He finished with 12 and 6; maybe coming back down to earth? I hope not...
- And while we're on the subject, did anyone notice that Udonis Haslem, not Mike Beasley, was in at the end of the game?
- Jermaine O'Neal records another double double. 16 points, 10 boards and 4 assists. Also a block and a steal...pretty solid all around night for J-O.
- Jamaal Magloire got his first significant minutes and did well, scoring 7 and grabbing 5 in 16 minutes. Well-done, big cat. Interesting that he was the Heat's first choice off the bench instead of Joel Anthony, who didn't make it into the game.
- Wade started 1-for-9 in Denver and 0-for-6 in L.A. Something for him to think about before Sunday's game in Sacramento.
Ah yes, Sacramento. The final stop of this painfully predictable road trip. Tipoff is at 9pm our time, 3am their time.