Saturday, December 20, 2008
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Wade, Heat stifle Lakers to snap skid

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[December 20, 2008]  MIAMI (AP) -- Dwyane Wade watched the ball leave Kobe Bryant's hand and sail toward the basket, just as time expired. He watched it drop over the front of the rim, then bounce tantalizingly, adding even more drama to a suspenseful ending.

Finally, the ball fell away.

"About time we got a break," Wade said.

As the saying goes, the Miami Heat made their own breaks Friday night.

Wade snapped out of a mild slump with 35 points, and the Heat defense stifled the high-powered Los Angeles Lakers' in ways no opponent has managed this season on the way to an 89-87 victory over the reigning Western Conference champions.

Miami held the Lakers to a season low in points, forced 21 turnovers - Los Angeles' second-highest total of the year - and survived the final dagger that Bryant, the league's MVP, could hoist their way.

"It was going down, then just popped out," said Bryant, who led the Lakers (21-4) with 28 points. "Happens sometimes."

Bryant made a spinning jumper from the left side of the lane to get the Lakers within two points with 41.7 seconds left, but his final shot from just a couple steps farther back simply wouldn't go down.

"Shows that we've grown up a little bit," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said, after Miami (13-12) snapped a three-game slide.

For Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, everything is always about defense, continuing the mantra he learned from former coach and team president Pat Riley, his mentor on the Miami sideline.

And perhaps the quintessential defensive moment of the season came in the final seconds.


Miami led by two and the Lakers pounded the ball inside, looking to tie the game. Lamar Odom's 8-footer was blocked by Joel Anthony, and Odom's attempt at a follow-up was blocked by Wade. Pau Gasol gathered that loose ball - and Wade erased his shot attempt as well.

"Just a fantastic effort defensively at the very end," Spoelstra said.

The Lakers' previous low this season was 93 points, and their 21 turnovers represented their second-highest total of the season.

Daequan Cook scored 14 points and Shawn Marion had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Miami, which saw most of a 12-point lead entering the fourth disappear.

Gasol had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who also got 13 points from Derek Fisher and 12 from Jordan Farmar.

"We just did not get ourselves going," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had a terrible third quarter."

A third quarter that came with a spectacular ending, courtesy of Wade.

The game was tied after each of the first two quarters, and was nip-and-tuck again for much of the third before Miami took control in the final minutes of the period.

A 13-2 run over the final 3:33 gave Miami a 75-63 lead entering the fourth, and Wade delivered both the set up and knockout blows of the quarter. He found Cook for a 3-pointer that gave Miami a nine-point edge, and after losing the ball with 5 seconds left in the period, came through with another entry for his burgeoning highlight reel.

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Stripped by Trevor Ariza near the 3-point line, Wade dove over the sprawled-out Lakers defender and collected the ball near halfcourt, dribbled to gather himself and let a 32-footer fly in desperation.

It dropped as time expired, and Wade posed on one knee as Ariza - who was still seated on the floor - only shook his head in disbelief.

"I knew it had a good chance of going in," Wade said. "And how'd you all like my pose?"

The Lakers held Miami scoreless for the first five minutes of the fourth, but never got the margin lower than four until the final minutes.

And by then, there simply wasn't enough time for Bryant and the Lakers to shake the Heat.

"It's a loss," Bryant said. "You regroup and you get back to work."

Notes:@ Friday was the fifth anniversary of Alonzo Mourning's kidney transplant - and the first anniversary of his devastating knee and leg injury at Atlanta. Mourning, who still has a locker in the Heat dressing room, is rehabbing and reiterated before the game that he hopes to re-sign with Miami sometime this season ... Hall of Famer Bill Russell was in attendance. ... Miami had 3-pointers by Mario Chalmers and Cook waved off in the first half because each stepped out of bounds before shooting. ... The Lakers' Sasha Vujacic put on an impressive display of dribbling at halftime - soccer-style, flicking the ball from foot to foot at least 12 times before a ballboy grabbed it away.

[Associated Press; By TIM REYNOLDS]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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