By Janis Carr
This is what can happen when the Lakers play a team of substance, one that has more victories than losses, a team that matches up well with them in talent if not always in height.
The Lakers, who have been having an easy time of it with a string of sub-.500 teams, needed a buzzer-beating basket from Kobe Bryant to win their eighth game in a row. Bryant banked in a three-pointer from about 27 feet straight away to beat the Miami Heat, 108-107, in front of a frenzied Staples Center crowd Friday night.
Derek Fisher hit a three-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to pull the Lakers to a 106-105 deficit. Dwyane Wade then made one of two free throws to give the Heat a two-point cushion.
The physical game turned out not only to be a test of wills, but also the patience of Lamar Odom, who was called for two technical fouls and was ejected with 5:07 to play. He and Jermaine O’Neal tangled under the basket, leading to both players receiving technical fouls in the fourth quarter.
The game’s subplot featured two of the game’s biggest stars in Bryant and Wade, who guarded each other. This was one of those marquee matchups fans love to watch, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson was eager to see it. He said he thought Bryant would match up well against Wade’s quickness and agility.
Wade came into the game averaging 26.8 points, while Bryant was scoring 28.8.
And the two went at it for most of the game, with Bryant getting the better of Wade early. Wade didn’t score a basket until late in the second quarter and finished the first half with six points.
Bryant shook off Wade early in the second half then took over, scoring 25 of his game-high 33 points in the second half.
But Wade wasn’t finished. His free throws in the final two minutes enabled the Heat to stay in the game and his hard-charging layup with 1:30 remaining gaveÂ the Heat a 100-98 lead.