Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: LeBron James' Triple Double Leads Miami To 96-80 Rout

LeBron James had a triple double and the Miami Heat made a statement, routing the Los Angeles Lakers 96-80 at Staples Center in a Christmas Day showdown.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: LeBron James Has A Triple Double As Miami Routs Los Angeles 96-80

The Miami Heat needed to make a statement that they could compete against the NBA's best teams. They did just that in the NBA's Christmas Day headliner, routing the Los Angeles Lakers 96-80 at the Staples Center. 

LeBron James led the way for the Heat with a historic performance, scoring 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and picked up 10 assists. It's the first time a player has ever posted a triple-double on Christmas, according to research done by ESPN's Tom Haberstroh dating back to the 1986/87 season. James scored 16 of his points in the second half as Miami pulled away in the third quarter for the win. 

Chris Bosh added 24 points for the Heat, while Dwyane Wade chipped in with 18 despite a sore left knee. Mario Chalmers also provided a lift off the bench, scoring 13 points while hitting three three-pointers. 

The Lakers had a rough time all game scoring the ball. They hit just 40 percent of their field-goal attempts and never got into a rhythm offensively. Kobe Bryant had just 17 points on 6-16 shooting, as Wade got him out of his comfort zone. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom had 17 and 14, respectively, but none of the other players had good games. 

It's worth noting that the Lakers were also blown out on Christmas Day last year by James' Cavaliers, so it's too early to suggest the sky is falling. Really, this win is more about Miami and the way they are beginning to emerge as the team we all thought they would be.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: Miami's Big Three Dominating, Led By LeBron James

There was some worry that the Miami Heat would flop in their big game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day, thanks to previous performances against elite teams like the Boston Celtics that were less inspired and coherent. Today, though, the Heat look like the dream team that danced in fans' heads this summer when LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join Dwyane Wade in Miami.

The three All-Stars have combined for 59 of the Heat's 75 points, and keyed Miami to a 75-64 lead at the end of the third quarter at the Staples Center. None of the three players has fewer than 18 points, which is more than any Lakers player has, but it is James that is playing especially well: he's made seven of 12 shots, nailed five three-pointers, leads all scorers with 21 points, and is very close to a triple-double thanks to his nine rebounds and eight assists.

The Heat actually didn't pad their lead all that much in a very good third quarter — Miami outscored Los Angeles 28-26 in the period — but they look to be in great shape to score a big win over the defending NBA champions. Then again, Kobe Bryant's been quiet so far, struggling from the field and scoring just 13 points. That might not last.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade Starring As Miami Leads

The Miami Heat employ arguably three of the 10 best players in the NBA in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but it's been a challenge at times this season to get all of them playing well at the same time. That hasn't been the problem in their Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The trio has combined to score 39 of the team's 47 points, as the Heat lead the Lakers 47-38 at halftime.

Bosh is leading the way with 18 points and eight rebounds. He got the Heat going early with an emphatic left-handed slam dunk, and he hasn't stopped producing. James added 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Wade added 10 points and five assists for the Heat. Mario Chalmers is accounting for most of the rest of the team's scoring, with seven points off the bench.

The Lakers are struggling mightily on offense, shooting just 36 percent from the field. The team's two stars, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, combined to shoot just 6-21 from the field. Gasol missed his first 11 shots, while Bryant missed his first six. Lamar Odom also has eight points to lead the Lakers, while Bryant also has eight points.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol Struggling As Miami Leads 20-14 After First Quarter

The Los Angeles Lakers got off to a fast start with two Lamar Odom dunks. Since then, though, this Christmas Day headliner has been dominated by the Miami Heat. They lead 20-14 after the first quarter, dominating the Lakers on the defensive end. 

The Lakers are shooting just 6-25 thus far, good for just 24 percent from the field. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the team's two stars, have missed all 11 of their field goal attempts and have yet to even score in the game. Only four Lakers have actually scored in the game -- Odom with five, Andrew Bynum with four, Derek Fisher with three and Matt Barnes with two. 

Chris Bosh led Miami with nine points, including a thunderous dunk to set the tone for the game. LeBron James added eight points as well, but the rest of the team has combined for just three points. Miami is struggling offensively as well, shooting just 36 percent from the field. Dwyane Wade has just two points on 1-4 shooting, and the only other Heat player to score is Juwan Howard.

Still, it's the struggles of Bryant and Gasol that are most surprising. Gasol is 0-7, while Bryant is 0-4. Maybe it's the shoes.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: Dwyane Wade Listed As Starter For Miami

It's now official: Dwyane Wade will be in the lineup for the Miami Heat as they take on the Los Angeles Lakers in the marquee NBA Christmas Day game. Wade missed the Heat's game on Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns with a left knee injury, but is ready to go for this game. 

Via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Dwyane Wade is on the active list and listed in the starting lineup.    

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra confirmed to reporters earlier that Wade would play and start. It was pretty much a given that Wade would play after he said that his "plan" was to play in an interview on Friday. This just removes any shred of doubt, barring some sort of reaggravation during warmups. 

Wade had injured his left knee when he ran into Jason Kidd during the Heat's loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: Dwyane Wade Will Play Despite Knee Injury

The NBA's premier Christmas Day matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat will have the entire cast of characters healthy and playing. Miami star Dwyane Wade will play in the game despite missing last Thursday's game against the Phoenix Suns with a left knee injury. 

Via Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

"My plan is to play," Wade said. "I'll continue treatment and therapy but having the luxury of resting [Thursday] ... was beneficial to me playing."    

Wade suffered the injury when he banged knees with Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd during the Heat's loss to the Mavericks on Tuesday. He wasn't needed against Phoenix, as the Heat won 95-83 without him. 

In this game, Wade will have to guard Kobe Bryant, so his knee better be in good shape. He had been on fire in Miami's recent winning streak, scoring nearly 28 points per game in Miami's last 10 games.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: Teams Treating It As Just Another Game

The NBA has done everything they can to market the Christmas Day showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. They want you to believe it's a titanic matchup between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the champions and the media darlings, the interior stars and the high-flying talents of James and Dwyane Wade.

But at the end of the day, it's really just one game out of 82. It may be occurring in primetime on a holiday, but it's still a regular-season game. As SB Nation's Heat blog Peninsula is Mightier writes:

The Heat players and coaches refuse to say this game is any kind of measuring stick for them. "It's just another game," says LeBron James, and he's right.  Miami is still a team that is working out the kinks and getting used to playing with one another.  I'm sure the game will still have plenty of meaning for whichever team wins it, but at this point of the season neither team should be overly concerned with a loss.    

SB Nation's Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll agrees.

As usual, the hype machine is full of crap.  There is no such thing as a statement game in December, especially not for the Los Angeles Lakers.  Two years ago, the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics at home comfortably, and everybody said it was a statement of their new found toughness.  They went on to win the championship.  Last season, they were destroyed at home by LeBron James' former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.  This time it was the Cavs making a statement that all of their pieces fit well together and they were a true contender.  But the Lakers went on to win the championship again.  I guess last year's statement was a Be Right Back sign, with a little clock that pointed 5 months ahead.    

It's a good point, and a nice reality check for everyone that wants to make too much out of this game. It's a game that should be entertaining, but it probably won't mean much come June.

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Heat Vs. Lakers, NBA Christmas Day: LeBron James Faces Kobe Bryant In Christmas Headliner

When the NBA decided to make the Lakers and the Heat its marquee NBA Christmas Day matchup, they did so figuring the two teams would be on top of their respective conferences. That isn't the case now, as the two teams currently stand behind clubs like Boston, San Antonio and Dallas. Still, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have a lot to play for as their two teams clash at 5 p.m. on ABC.

The Heat have recovered from a slow start to win 13 of their last 14 games, with the only loss coming to the Dallas Mavericks at home earlier this week. Dwyane Wade, who missed the team's last game against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday with a sore left knee, is expected to play. Combined with the healthy return of Mike Miller this week, the Heat will mostly be at full strength on the perimeter. 

As for the Lakers, they continue to float around after a fast start. On Wednesday, they lost at home to the Milwaukee Bucks by 19 points, despite the Bucks missing Brandon Jennings, Corey Maggette and Carlos Delfino. This came after a five-game winning streak. However, the Lakers should have the advantage on the inside in this game, with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and a healthy Andrew Bynum going up against a shallow Heat front line.

This will be a big test for the Heat, since it comes against a formidable opponent. The Heat are just 2-5 this season against the top four teams in each conference (wins over Atlanta and Utah, losses to Boston twice, Dallas twice and Utah once), and have faced criticism for not stepping up against the best teams. This game offers their best chance to stop those criticisms.

For more on the game, check out Silver Screen and RollPeninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Los Angeles.

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