THE FACTS: Not much separated the Heat and Lakers when they met Thursday night at Staples Center. Not until the final two minutes, anyway. Behind a season-best 39 points from LeBron James, the Heat toyed with L.A. for the first 46 minutes before yanking the win from the hosts grasp down the stretch, scoring the game's final nine points in the 99-90 victory.
QUOTABLE: "He's one of the best we've ever seen."
-- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant on James.
THE STAT: The Heat scored 68 points in the paint, 12 more than their previous season high. The Lakers, meanwhile, were held to 28 points in the paint, six off their season low.
TURNING POINT: Bryant was 3-for-18 from the floor with 10 minutes remaining in the game, then finally got hot and made four straight baskets to give the Lakers an 83-81 lead with 6:33 on the game clock. Bryant sank his final basket of the game, a 3-pointer with James on his hip, to tie the score at 90 with 2:32 remaining. That would be the final points for the Lakers, however, as Dwyane Wade came right back with a pull-up 13-footer, Ray Allen scored from nine feet away and James from six feet, giving Miami a 96-90 lead with 49 seconds remaining. James capped the final spree with a three-point play with five seconds remaining, giving him a new season-high point total.
HOT: Wade had been fairly quiet of late, averaging 12.3 points in the previous three games, but Thursday was his 31st birthday and he obviously didn't want to fly back to Miami a loser. Wade scored 27 points on 11-for-20 shooting and did a masterful job guarding Bryant until James assumed that assignment down the stretch.
NOT: The Lakers committed eight turnovers in both the first and second quarters -- their most giveaways for a half -- trimmed it back to three in the third and had just one in the fourth. The backcourt of Bryant and Steve Nash combined for 10 turnovers. The final tally for points-off-turnover was 23 for the Heat and two for the Lakers. As for Miami, the Big Three had a piece missing most of the night. Despite all the points in the key, Heat center Chris Bosh finished with a season-low seven points on 3-for-10 shooting, his first game in single digits since Dec. 1 against the Nets. Bosh did contribute six steals, however.
QUOTABLE II: "You have to beat [LeBron] by not turning it over."
-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni
GOOD MOVE: The Heat don't play again until Wednesday at home against the Raptors, so they could be excused for playing their stars throughout the second half. But seeing as they also played Wednesday night at Golden State, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra gave James a two-minute breather at the start of the fourth quarter. He appeared fresher than ever when he re-entered the game, producing 10 points, three rebounds and three assists down the stretch.
BAD MOVE: The Lakers were trailing by just two points when Dwight Howard was fouled under the basket and stepped to the free-throw line with 1:51 remaining. He lined up his shot, raised his arms and then....shot an air ball. He put a little extra on his next attempt, but clanked it off the back of the rim. Allen then scored on the other end of the floor and the euphoria quickly spilled from the building. Howard made four of his first five free-throw attempts, but ultimately finished 5-for-13, dropping his season average to 50.1 percent from the line.
QUOTABLE III: "Something like that, you've got to have a sense of humor about,"
-- Kobe Bryant on Howard's air ball.
NOTABLE: James was 15-for-15 in shots taken from eight feet in. He had six slam dunks, his most with the Heat and the most since he had seven against Utah in 2009... Miami was 2-for-13 from 3-point range, but is 9-2 in the Big Three era when making two 3s or less in a game. ... Miami backup guard Mike Miller did not appear in the game, his first DNP since Nov. 14 against the Clippers. ... The Lakers are 1-9 this season against teams currently leading their division. ... Lakers forward Pau Gasol returned after missing the last five games with a concussion. He finished with 12 points and four rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.
UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Sunday @ Toronto, Monday @ Chicago, Wednesday @ Memphis. For the Heat, Wednesday vs. Toronto, Friday vs. Detroit, Sunday @ Boston.