Lakers Douse Heat for 4th Straight Win
The Lakers hadn’t won in Miami since 2008 — two years before the LeBron-era Heat came into existence.
Naturally when the dam finally broke, it did so in spectacular fashion. “Let’s go Lakers!” chants rang through a third straight road arena, as the purple and gold improved to 4-0 post-All-Star Break by thumping Miami, 131-113.
With 21 games remaining on the schedule, the Lakers (27-34) also eclipsed last year’s win total, ensuring their most victorious season since 2012-13. To do so, their offense absolutely scorched the Heat (32-30), which boasts the NBA’s seventh-ranked defense and is jockeying for a playoff spot.
L.A. shot 59.5 percent from the field — its highest percentage in four years — and did so while undermanned at the wing after losing Josh Hart (hand fracture) and Corey Brewer (waived) the day before.
To head coach Luke Walton, this success stemmed from the play of Lonzo Ball, who returned to the starting lineup and contributed all across the floor with eight points, seven assists, six rebounds and a career-high six steals.
“To me, he was probably the best player on the court tonight,” Walton said. “He only shot five times, which is why we’ve been so high on him since day one. He’s one of the really unique players that it doesn’t matter if he’s taking shots and scoring 20 or not — he can affect the game all over.”
Lonzo sets Lopez up with back-to-back wide-open triples, and Brook returns the favor.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 2, 2018
(Nice job by Ingram handling that double team, btw.) pic.twitter.com/2FyBDorcBW
Ball also conducted the Lakers’ electric offense, creating a 22-10 scoring advantage on fast-breaks against a Miami team that prefers to grind the pace down to a stop.
Several Lakers benefitted from this supercharged tempo, including Julius Randle, who bullied the Heat from the opening tip-off and wound up with 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Randle had little issue getting to the rim with his blend of size and speed, particularly when matched up against one of Miami’s smaller bigs. The Heat struggled to handle Randle’s physicality, sending him to the free throw line nine times, where he made every attempt.
“Julius is a bully,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “He’s got a mismatch every night. We exploit it, we feed him and he just comes through.”
Randle did most of his work early, scoring 21 in a first half that saw the Lakers drop a season-high 73 points as a team.
“It all starts with our enforcer: Julius,” Brandon Ingram said. “He sets the tone for what we do, (how) we come in, how we’re gonna play every game.”
Three young Lakers showing some of their best talents in one possession.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 2, 2018
• Brandon Ingram uses his length for a tough rebound.
• Lonzo Ball fires the outlet pass.
• Julius Randle bowling-balls his way in for a bucket. pic.twitter.com/HEHtiLlc9e
Shifting from point guard to his natural small forward, Ingram had a nice outing himself, scoring 19 points on an 8-of-14 clip with five assists.
Ingram was a mid-range machine, shooting 4-of-5, while also attacking the basket for three layups. But he left the game in the third quarter with a left hip flexor strain, and is considered questionable for Saturday’s game in San Antonio.
While the Lakers were pained to see another wing go down in the fourth quarter, they were also treated to some showmanship by Isaiah Thomas.
Dubbed the “King in the Fourth” last season for his late-game heroics, Thomas took his throne in the beginning of the final period, scoring 11 points in the first three minutes.
During this stretch he hit half of his six 3-pointers, and went on to finish the game with a season-high 29 points and six assists.
“It was beautiful to watch Isaiah in the fourth quarter again,” Walton said. “It was a flashback to what he did to everybody last season. It was a lot of fun to watch that and see him to his thing.”
Thomas — who has struggled since returning from a hip injury that cost him about half the season — was so deadly that the Heat started double-teaming him off screens, making room for him to show off his playmaking via a nice two-man game with Ivica Zubac.
“He just does such a nice job of mixing it up,” Walton said. “Getting to the paint, playmaking to Zu when Zu’s rolling. When you’re doing that and just making the correct reads, it’s tough for a defense to load up on you. A lot of it was just him being him and showing the world how good he is again.”
Quick lesson in gravity. A red-hot Isaiah Thomas draws three (!) Heat defenders toward him before serving it up to Zubac. pic.twitter.com/VY9gK0XvpZ— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 2, 2018
Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting. … The Lakers hit 16 3-pointers on only 29 attempts, while Miami went just 9-of-31. … Thomas saw his streak of made free throws end at 50 straight. … A crowd of 19,600 sold out AmericanAirlines Arena.