Playing stingy defense has long been the Miami Heat’s No. 1 personality trait since Pat Riley’s arrival in 1995.
Apparently, the Los Angeles Lakers know the secret to foiling it.
Behind 29 points and six three-pointers from diminuitive former Celtics All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas and another 25 points from bruising power forward Julius Randle, the Lakers pounded the Heat inside and scorched them from outside in a 131-113 rout Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“They ran us out of the gym,” said Heat All-Star point guard Goran Dragic, who had 19 points, four rebounds and seven assists and was one of only three players (Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow were the others) to finish in the positive in plus/minus.
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“Their pace was really high, and we basically didn’t even defend,” Dragic continued. “Then they got confidence and they were making shots. When we defended, after a while they made some tough shots, too. But it was too much. They were shooting 60 percent from the field. Basically the game was in their ballpark. We can’t allow a team to score 130 points. It’s not good.”
Winners of 15 of their past 22 games after a 12-27 start to the season, the Lakers made 16 of their 29 three-point attempts and scored 48 points in the paint and another 22 on fastbreaks and became only the seventh team to score 125 points or more in regulation against the Heat since Riley came over from the Knicks.
L.A. has now scored 125 points in regulation against the twice in a row now. The Lakers crushed Miami 127-100 in L.A. back on Jan. 6, 2017. The Heat (32-30) will see the Lakers (27-34) again in the final game of a three-game West Coast trip on March 16.
The Lakers shot 63 percent in the first half and led 73-62 at the break. The 73 points allowed were two off the season high the Heat allowed in a loss at Cleveland back on Nov. 28.
The Lakers made 10 of their first 12 shots from the field before the Heat went on a 17-2 run in the first quarter to take a 36-33 lead into the second period. The Lakers then opened the period with an 8-0 run and took the lead for good.
“We are much, much better than what we showed tonight defensively,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Let’s not take anything away from what they did and what they brought tonight. They came in here, played aggressively, got us on our heels and they deserved to have that kind of discrepancy in the score.”
Dwyane Wade led Miami with 25 points on 11 of 18 shooting and picked up where he left off on Tuesday when he scored 15 of the Heat’s final 17 points in a come-from-behind win over Philadelphia. He was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field in the first half.
But it was hardly enough for Miami, which fell to 2-1 on the five-game homestand and host the Detroit Pistons (29-32) on Saturday. The Pistons trail the Heat by 2 1/2 games for the final playoff spot in the East.