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Heat 114 - Lakers 111. Wade passes for 14 assists, Kobe doesn't

The Miami Heat continue to defy expectations, this time for the better, with a solid 114-111 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. While Dwyane Wade vs Kobe Bryant was the marquee matchup, there where plenty of heroes for the Heat. Quentin Richardson was ridiculous with 7 for 11 on 3-point shooting. Carlos Arroyo unsurprisingly returned to the starting lineup and provided the kind of play at point guard that the Heat desperately needed. Too often the Heat’s point guards have settled for simply bringing the ball up the court, passing it to Wade at the top of the key and then just standing around waiting for someone else to make a play. This time Arroyo actually made plays for others, providing easy baskets for his teammates but also hitting his own jumpers when given space to roam. It’s stunning how needlessly complicated the Heat’s offense can be when it can just be a matter of hitting open jumpers while the defense is zeroed in on Wade. The Heat’s front line was just as important to the victory as well. Jermaine O’Neal was huge for the Heat when it mattered the most with some timely baskets and a charge on Kobe Bryant in overtime. Michael Beasley had his moments, playing more loose and confident than he has in the last few games. Beasley made better decisions with the ball and chose to pass instead of forcing the issue by taking a jump shot if he didn’t have a clear path to the basket. Udonis Haslem played the entire 4th quarter and overtime, snagging a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds while playing some solid defense against the Laker bigs. Speaking of which, when Pau Gasol goes for 10 points, Andrew Bynum gets 12 points and Lamar Odom has 13 against flat footed Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Magloire then your team deserves to lose. There simply is no excuse to struggle to score when every other NBA team this season has taken advantage of the Heat’s biggest weakness in the paint. While they did collectively pull down 30 rebounds with ease, the problem is that the rest of the Lakers only grabbed 9 more rebounds and that negated what would have been a huge rebounding edge for the Lakers. With the clear advantage in height, the Lakers’ biggest failure was not taking advantage and instead seemed to over-rely on getting Kobe Bryant his shots to upstage Wade, particularly late in the game. Ironically, that’s the kind of basketball that Miami has played throughout the season and it hasn’t brought much sustained success. Whereas the Heat has limited choices so it’s understandable that sometimes Wade must play "me against the entire team" ball, it makes no sense to do that when the Lakers have such quality big men that could have benefited from the Heat’s porous defense by the basket. On a side note, why did it take the coaching staff so long to double Kobe and take the ball out of his hands? With two minutes left in overtime, the Heat finally woke up and sent a second defender to him at the top of the key which led to a quick turnover by Bryant. The Lakers’ strategy was working well at the end when Bryant had 12 consecutive points during a 3:31 stretch in the 4th quarter and overtime. But two plays at the very end perfectly illustrated why Wade was the winner and not Kobe on this night. With 45 seconds to go, Wade split the double team at the top of the paint and instead of barreling towards the basket where Odom and Gasol were waiting for him he passed it to his left where a wide-open Haslem hit a huge jumper. On the very next possession with about 23 seconds left to play, Kobe had a similar opportunity on a broken play but chose to be the hero and barreled into O’Neal for an offensive foul instead of passing to Gasol who was right next to the basket with only Arroyo behind him. No question that the Heat woke up and stepped up their game because of the opponent on a national stage. This team simply doesn’t play like this against Milwaukee or Charlotte. After 62 games and the Heat winning exactly half of them, this is not the time to declare this victory as some sort of "season changer" until the Heat string together several games like this which is certainly the time to do it with all the home games coming up. Unfortunately, the Heat are just as capable of doing the opposite so it remains to be seen if there are any after affects from this victory.