Justin Bieber was a no-show, Kobe Bryant watched from the bench and Dwyane Wade was in a suit. So, it wasn’t one of those typical rock-star nights in Miami when the Lakers are in town.
No, this was a night about things such as tradition and stability. Instead of Bieber, there was old faithful Jimmy Buffett. In place of Wade’s offense, rock steady Chris Bosh led the Heat with 31 points. Instead of the annual treat of watching Bryant at AmericanAirlines Arena, Heat fans were encouraged by the quickly improving game of Greg Oden in a 109-102 victory against the Lakers.
Bosh’s smooth jumper carried the Heat throughout the game, so it was only fitting that his 19-footer with 54 seconds remaining ended the shorthanded Lakers’ comeback push. The Heat (31-12) led by as many as 16 points in the second half, but the Lakers cut that lead to four points in the final three minutes.
“When the shots are falling and my teammates are looking for me, it’s a good feeling,” Bosh said.
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The Heat is 7-5 this month after back-to-back wins at home. Miami has swept its series with the Lakers in consecutive seasons and has defeated the league’s highest-profile franchise five straight times in Miami.
LeBron James finished with 27 points and had 13 rebounds. It was his first game with more than 10 rebounds since Dec.10. He was 9 of 15 from the field, 2 of 4 from three-point range and 7 of 14 from the free-throw line.
“I’m just trying to maintain my focus while I’m on the floor,” James said. “We’re at the stretch run. This is the second half of the season and every game matters, and we understand that. We just want to try to get better with our game and that starts with me.”
But Bosh was the star on this night. He outplayed his counterpart, Lakers center Pau Gasol, and went 15 of 22 from the field and 1 of 3 from three-point range to go along with six rebounds. Bosh has scored at least 25 points in four of his past five games. It was his second 30-plus scoring game of the season after a 37-point effort against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers on Dec.28.
“When his mid-range shots are falling like that, he’s pretty dangerous,” James said of Bosh. “And that rim looked mighty big for him tonight.”
Bosh’s 16-footer with 6:39 left put the Heat ahead by nine points.
The Heat led by 16 in the third quarter, but the Lakers made their run early in the final period. A fast-break layup by Nick Young following a turnover by Michael Beasley cut the Heat’s lead to five with 9:54 left in the game. Young had 19 points off the bench, and Gasol and Jodie Meeks led the Lakers with 22 points each.
A three-pointer by Ray Allen gave the Heat a 101-94 lead with 3:49 remaining but a three-pointer by Meeks with 2:41 ensured an exciting finish. Following a timeout, James swished a difficult three-pointer from the wing to put the Heat ahead by seven.
Though Wade missed another game — his fourth in a row — Oden took another step forward in his come back. After his breakthrough effort Tuesday against Boston, Oden logged another strong performance in the first half against the Lakers. He played six minutes, going 2 of 4 from the field for five points, and also had two rebounds.
It was Oden’s fourth appearance for the Heat and the first with more than 10 minutes of court time. He played 11 minutes total and finished with five points and five rebounds.
“I loved it. I really liked his minutes,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “What you’re seeing is a little bit of missed timing from time off, but from a glass half-full perspective …w e don’t have anyone else on our roster who can make those type of plays.”
Battier’s first field goal of the game, a corner three-pointer less than two minutes into the third quarter, gave the Heat a 62-46 lead and put the Heat’s field-goal percentage above 58 percent. The Heat outscored the Lakers 38-18 in the paint in the first half.
Bieber, the embattled pop star, had tickets to Thursday night’s game but apparently did not attend the game after his DUI arrest early in the day.