LOS ANGELES -- The marquee matchup of the NBA's Christmas Day schedule turned into a one-sided showcase for Miami, as a LeBron James triple-double fueled a 96-80 Heat victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday.
First Quarter: Heat 20, Lakers 14
The NBA's showcase Christmas Day game starts off as a showcase for defense. It was a struggle for both teams to score, but much moreso for the Lakers, who converted just six of their 25 field-goal attempts. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol combined to go 0-11 from the floor, with Gasol missing a few easy ones right at the rim.
L.A. opened with a 7-2 run, and had the crowd excited and on its feet early with an alley-oop from Bryant to Lamar Odom on the opening possession. But after Ron Artest picked up his second foul less than three minutes in -- both while guarding LeBron James -- the Lakers were outscored 18-7 the rest of the way, with James scoring eight first-quarter points.
The one bright spot for L.A. was Andrew Bynum, who checked in with just under three minutes to go in the period, and scored on both of his touches -- post-up opportunities that began with his back to the basket.
Second Quarter: Heat 47, Lakers 38
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol combined for 14 more points than they did in their scoreless first quarter here in the second, but thanks to the continued stellar play of Chris Bosh -- and just some better overall shooting -- the Heat were able to extend its halftime lead to nine.
It could have been much worse for the Lakers. Miami opened the period with a 13-6 run that pushed its lead to 13 before L.A. began to show some life by holding the Heat to a single field goal over a span of almost five minutes. That allowed Bryant to have a shot to cut the lead to six with about three minutes to play, but he was stripped by Wade as he made his move into the lane.
The refs didn't see a foul, Bryant clapped his hands in disagreement, and he was whistled for a technical foul. Miami made the free throw, and went back up by 12 on a corner three-pointer from James. Thankfully for the Lakers, Artest quickly answered with a three of his own on the next possession, which prevented the game from becoming completely one-sided at the break.
WIth 10.7 seconds remaining in the half -- and after Bosh pushed his first-half scoring total to 18 with a driving layup and a 20-foot jumper on consecutive possessions -- James and Artest got tangled up under the basket, and LeBron didn't take too kindly to the contact. Artest had knocked his headband off, and James gave a little shove to gain some separation, all of which was enough to draw double technical fouls from the officials.
Third Quarter: Heat 75, Lakers 64
A three-pointer from Kobe Bryant a couple of minutes into the third cut Miami's lead to just six at 51-45. But the Heat quickly recovered, and pushed it back out to 12 at 60-48 after a particularly physical defensive effort from Artest on James, which resulted in a temporary steal for Artest -- before the ball got away from him, and he went flying out of bounds into the Miami bench in an unsuccessful attempt to save it.
The Miami lead reached as many as 16, thanks to Wade and James combining for 18 points in the period.
Andrew Bynum was effective for the Lakers near the end of the first quarter, and finally got his first action since then when he checked back in with 2:46 to play in this one. But the team didn't look for him the way they did during his first brief stint, and he missed his only shot attempt.
Fourth Quarter: Heat 96, Lakers 80
L.A. pulled within eight points about a minute and a half into the fourth, on a three-pointer from Shannon Brown. But that's as close as they were able to get the rest of the way, and in fact, the Heat pushed their lead to as many as 21 points before their statement of a performance was through.
About the only bit of excitement on the Lakers end came when Kobe Bryant was called for an offensive foul with 4:46 to play and his team down 19, on a play where he crashed into the stationary James Jones in the lane. As Bryant got up, LeBron was vocal in his congratulations for his teammate's defensive effort, and Bryant didn't seem to appreciate it. He had words for James, and the two exchanged words back and forth five or six times as the two headed back down the court.
That was about all the fight the Lakers were able to show this afternoon. Miami's big three delivered in a big way -- Bosh finished with 24 points and 13 boards, Wade with 18, five rebounds and six assists, and James with a triple-double line of 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
If there's any consolation the Lakers can take away from this one, it's in the fact that they got blown out by LeBron's team on Christmas Day at home last season, and still managed to win a championship.
Then again, they didn't have to face his Cavaliers in the Finals