From Mark Heisler, LA Times: Happily for the Lakers — or as happily as anything can be now — they don’t have to worry about beating Miami in the Finals. Who said the Lakers will make the Finals? One game never means anything, even if it’s on Christmas and bidding on EBay for two courtside tickets reached $41,440. So, as bad as the Lakers looked, with the Heat walking on them in a 96-80 rout, that doesn’t mean it’s time to start worrying. It was time to start worrying a week or two ago, with San Antonio and Dallas showing they weren’t the same old Spurs and Mavericks. For the Lakers, who dominated the West for three seasons, spending 34 days out of first place in the last two, it’s a whole new deal.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The text message popped up and set off a slight moment of anxiety. Lakers forward Ron Artest was set to arrive Tuesday at the Target Terrace in L.A. Live to introduce his public service announcement with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, but he just texted his publicist he’d be 20 minutes late because of traffic. It’s not a big deal except this announcement preceded the Lakers-Milwaukee game, meaning arriving late there would result in a fine from Coach Phil Jackson. Artest managed to arrive to Staples Center on time, but his need to monitor the clock epitomized the tug-of-war he felt between balancing his Laker responsibilities and promotional efforts raffling off his championship ring for mental health charities. That’s why Artest felt a sense of relief on Christmas, the day Raymond Mikkael, a father of four and a Hawthorne resident, learned he won the contest, which was announced at the Conga Room following the Lakers’ 96-80 loss to the Miami Heat.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Depending on who you ask, the Lakers lost a lot of intangible stuff in the wake of Saturday’s Christmas anti-miracle. Gravitas, confidence, and pride, just to name a few. But as I noted heading in, the Lakers faced real, practical consequences from continued spotty play (beyond prompting Kobe Bryant to stick a boot in places boots don’t comfortably fit). During their consecutive title runs, the team reached Christmas with a lead in the Western Conference. Now, after peeling themselves off the Staples floor following the Miami game, despite playing by far the NBA’s easiest schedule the Lakers found themselves not just outside the W.C.’s top spot (five back of San Antonio), but the second as well (three behind Dallas), and in a dead heat with Utah for third (with Oklahoma City a scant half game behind).
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: LeBron James was magnificent yesterday, hanging a triple-double on the Lakers in the Heat’s blowout victory. In my initial damage assessment I wrote that “Artest got destroyed by LeBron,” a statement to which a few commenters have objected on the grounds that I was being unfairly critical toward Ron’s defense. So to fact-check myself, I decided this afternoon to hop onto Synergy and rewatch all of LeBron’s plays from yesterday’s game in the hopes of assigning blame where blame’s rightly due. I looked at every sequence in which LeBron was involved either because he took a shot, went to the free-throw line, handed out an assist or committed a turnover. For each one I took note of which Laker (or Lakers) was tasked with guarding him. I recorded the success or failure of the play and compiled the results into a table you can find after the cut.