(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
LeBron, Kuzma Power Lakers Past Heat in Wild Finish
It just had to end like this. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — competitors, teammates and brothers — matched up against each other for one final possession.
In the last duel between two legends, Wade attempted the game-tying 3-pointer while draped by James, but it was off the mark. Miami had another shot to tie, yet that missed too, as James corralled the rebound and threw the ball high into the air before embracing Wade as the final buzzer sounded on the Lakers’ 108-105 win.
“There’s only one building that could’ve even embraced that moment,” James said, “and that’s STAPLES Center. We all got a treat tonight. Not only us two as competitors and as brothers, but everyone who was here tonight.”
LeBron James vs. Dwyane Wade one last time. pic.twitter.com/8pEi9RGgyR— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) December 11, 2018
James and Wade may be six years removed from their final title together with the Heat, but they remain close as family. After the end of the Lakers’ fifth straight home win, the legends swapped jerseys, with the soon-to-be-retired Wade inscribing: “Thanks for pushing me to be greater than I knew I was.”
And Wade agreed with James about the setting. Los Angeles was the right place to stage the final battle between brothers.
“I thanked him for bringing us to this stage for our last hurrah,” Wade said.
They entered the night having faced each other 30 times, with each man winning exactly half of the contests. The winner-take-all finale was a fitting one, as both players stepped up for the moment.
Wade racked up 15 points, 10 assists and five rebounds, while James went even further with 28 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
“I didn’t even realize that we were tied 15-15 coming into today’s game until this morning,” James said. “It’s storybook. We got great writers here in Hollywood, and I don’t even know if they’d be able to write this one.”
Every great script needs a grand finale, and this one didn’t disappoint. The Lakers (17-10) trailed by six with seven minutes left when they embarked on a 13-2 run that included two 3-pointers and a driving dunk from LeBron.
The Heat (11-15) managed to tie it back up with just under three minutes left, but LeBon was able to feed Kyle Kuzma, who cut to the basket for the go-ahead score off a pick from Lonzo Ball.
LeBron hit three free throws from there, and Miami answered with a couple of its own, setting up for one last possession with the Heat down by three.
Then, James locked down his friend one more time.
Kuz gets buckets
Kyle Kuzma extended his streak of 20-point games to five, and he launched himself over that threshold by dropping a game-high 33 points with seven rebounds.
He shot 14-of-22 from the field, including five buckets out of pick-and-rolls, as the power forward showed off his unique combination of ball handling and touch on floaters.
Kuzma was also key to the Lakers’ breaking Miami’s 2-3 zone, which had given L.A. some issues. The sophomore hit two 3-pointers and added a put-back layup to help convince the Heat to abandon the scheme.
“Offensively he’s done a nice job recently of slowing down,” coach Luke Walton said, “still being aggressive, but just slowing down with the actual moves, getting on balance, those types of things.”
Kyle Kuzma showing off his potential as a pick-and-roll ball handler.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) December 11, 2018
He's got 16 points at halftime on 8/11 FG, including these four out of P&R. pic.twitter.com/RCd3zxd370
Justise Winslow led Miami with 28 points and six 3-pointers. … The Lakers hit 14 3-pointers on a 43.8 percent clip. … JaVale McGee recorded four blocks, while Lonzo Ball added three steals and two blocks. … Denzel Washington, Will Ferrell, Jared Goff, Gabrielle Union, Jessica Alba, Future and Aubrey Plaza were among the sold-out crowd.