The Miami Heat's losing streak has ended, and in convincing fashion as the beguiled star-laden squad went into crunch time with the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers -- led by the popular king of clutch Kobe Bryant -- and ... Miami won 94-88. This was exactly the type of game the Heat have been losing -- close games to excellent teams; to win one against the most gilded player in the game on such a big stage is a real triumph.
Whether it will be met with such congratulations, and whether it can be repeated remain to be seen. Miami is, after all, just 1-5 on its trip through the upper echelon of the NBA with five more games to go. The Spurs on Monday provide the next incredible test, being that San Antonio smoked Miami by 30 last week. The win over the Lakers can either be a catalyst from something special, or a footnote at the end of another disappointment.
The game was amazingly close throughout, a real nailbiter. Neither team led by more than six, and there were 16 lead changes and 18 ties. It was nothing like Miami's dismissal of the Lakers on Christmas Day, a game uncompetitive by the third quarter. This edition was completely up in the air, until Kobe started missing shots. Bryant missed his final three shots and had two crucial turnovers in the closing minute and a half as Miami broke the 88-88 tie with six unanswered points.
Dwyane Wade had a hand in 10 of the Heat's final 14 points -- until LeBron's free throws inside of 20 seconds iced the game and excepting a score by Chris Bosh, Wade for four buckets and a fast-break assist to LeBron in the final five minutes. But early on, it was all Bosh. The man who takes the brunt of criticism for the Heat's woes dominated the post in the first half, scoring 16 by the end of the second quarter. He finished with 24, tied for the game-high with Kobe.
Kobe scored 17 in the first half, but just seven in the second as he shot 2-11 in the final two quarters. Pau Gasol hit eight of his 16 shots, but rarely saw the ball late, as is the norm with the Lakers.