Payton Sparks Heat to Christmas Day Win
Miami 97, L.A. Lakers 92
MIAMI, Dec. 25 (Ticker) -- Gary Payton turned back the clock with his offense. His defense looked as good as ever.
Payton scored a season high-tying 21 points and hounded Kobe Bryant into missing a tying 3-point attempt in the waning seconds as the Miami Heat edged the Los Angeles Lakers, 97-92.
Miami trailed, 92-91, before Payton - who had been averaging just 8.9 points this season - drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:05 remaining.
"I'm just proud the Miami Heat won," Payton said. "I've been too long in the league to be too proud of anything (on offense or defense) right now. We still have a lot of games and we are still trying to build."
After Lakers forward Lamar Odom missed a 3-pointer, Miami's Dwyane Wade misfired on a rushed baseline jumper as the shot clock was expiring. Heat forward Udonis Haslem missed a follow shot, but he deflected the rebound off Lakers guard Smush Parker out of bounds with 12.5 seconds left.
Less than a second later, Wade only could split a pair of free throws, giving the Lakers a chance to tie the game. But Payton - nicknamed "The Glove" for his tenacious defense - forced Bryant into an off-balance shot from well beyond the top of the arc, and the ball barely grazed the front of the rim.
"We wanted to run a play and they took it away from us," Bryant said. "They forced me further down th floor than I had liked to be and I got up a shot and it didn't quite make it there."
Bryant scored 37 points but went 0-of-8 from the arc and 13-of-19 from the free-throw line.
"Gary's been a hell of a defender his entire career," said Bryant, who was teammates with Payton in 2003-04. "He actually taught me how to play defense. I wasn't surprised by his play at all."
"(Bryant) had an exceptional game today," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "The fact that we couldn't put a lot of pressure on him in the fourth quarter. He then became tired because of that. It was his legs and his foul shots that eventually cost us. We were definitely disappointed in the missed foul shots."
James Posey grabbed the rebound, was fouled with 2.1 seconds left and sank two free throws to ice the game.
Shaquille O'Neal, who ignored his former Laker teammate-turned-rival, Bryant, before the opening tip, collected 18 points and 17 rebounds.
"I don't think Shaq really worries about it," Payton said of O'Neal's tenuous relationship with Bryant. "I think he wants to play well. It's past him now. I don't think he thinks about him and Kobe anymore. I don't think Kobe thinks about it. That's over."
Wade shook off early foul trouble to score 18 points but shot just 5-of-15 from the field and 8-of-13 from the line.
Brian Cook scored 15 points and Odom added 14 and 16 rebounds for the Lakers, who were edged by the Heat in overtime a year ago on Christmas.