Kobe Bryant said there was no ill feelings heading into the marquee showdown between the Heat and Lakers but his aggressive start suggested otherwise.
The talk all week hadn’t been about LeBron James’ MVP season, nor the Lakers struggles, rather the media invented feud between Dwyane Wade and Bryant that emanated from the All Star Game. Wade accidentally hit the Lakers star across the bridge of the nose during an intentional foul, breaking it and forcing him off the court with blood flowing freely.
The Lakers fans greeted Wade more boisterously than James, which has been seldom seen since LeBron joined the Heat.
Kobe Bryant came out at a blistering pace, putting in 20 points in the first quarter. Wade had absolutely no answer for Bryant who pulled out the entire repertoire of post moves in his arsenal. At the other end the Heat were severely missing the length of Chris Bosh as the Lakers bigs had a field day against the undersized and under skilled Miami front court.
LeBron James continually found good looks for both Haslem and Joel Anthony but the starting pair finished a miserable 2/11 from the field.
The Lakers meanwhile garnered huge performances from Andrew Bynum and particularly Metta World Peace who had his best game since the 09 Finals.
James registered his third straight double double, finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, but had absolutely no help. His defense was beyond belief, denying 7ft Pau Gasol several times in the post and literally covering every single position on the floor. There is no comparative player to him on the defensive end in the game.
It was a performance eerily reminiscent to that of his days in Cleveland. James having to take bad shots to bail out the ineptitudes of his teammates, giving them open looks to which they wasted and having to cover the most dangerous player at the other end of the court, regardless of what position they played.
In the several hundred games I have seen from Dwyane Wade this stands out as an obvious worst. He was abysmal. Wade was flat out dominated by a motivated Bryant at the defensive end of the court, at when in possession Wade constantly made the wrong play, gave up offensive fouls and committed 5 turnovers in 30 minutes of game time. LeBron James has had 3 turnovers in his last 120 minutes of basketball.
Wade chose to spend his energy in the officials ear, complaining about the calls all night rather than attempting to change the game with the ability and talent we know he has. It was truly an embarrassing performance from the Heat’s captain, a humbling moment if there ever has been one. It was capped off by fouling out about halfway through the final period.
The Miami Heat offered their best impression of the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. James had to do everything and received no help when he attempted to get others involved. Their length was abused and their talent severely under performed. Open looks were not falling as despite the efforts of the game’s best player, they were unable to deny a team that was much better on the night.
It was Miami’s second consecutive loss and second consecutive game minus Chris Bosh. He is by far the most undervalued and underestimated star in the league. Just his presence on the court ensures the Heat are an infinitely better team. Even adding just 16 points per game is often the difference between a Heat blowout or a close game. James desperately desired a pick and roll/pick and pop partner tonight and plainly someone that could hit an open shot.
I wouldn’t read too much into this Lakers fans, you’re still a mess and the Heat are still head and shoulders above everyone else.