UPDATE: From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: Late against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat decided to put the basketball in Dwyane Wade’s hands, letting him be the one who would create on the offensive end. One way the Heat seemed to let Wade create was making him the ball handler in pick and roll sets. Over the course of the final five minutes, the Heat ran the pick and roll with Wade as the ball handler four different times (these four possessions represented all of Wade’s 4th quarter PNR Ball Handler possessions)…According to Synergy Sport Technology, Dwyane Wade goes away from the screen in pick and roll sets 25.4% of the time, which is 3rd most in the entire NBA (Behind Derrick Rose and Earl Boykins). Even more, out of the 3 pick and roll sets in the final 5 minutes (before the final one with one minute left), Wade went away from the screen 2 times, scoring both times:
From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: As the clock ticked toward midnight Thursday evening, long after players from both teams had filed out of American Airlines Arena following the Miami Heat’s 94-88 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant emerged from the visitors locker room and headed back to the court. It was time for Kobe doin’ work, after doin’ work. “I just wanted to work on some things,” Bryant told a pack of reporters who waited and watched his nearly hourlong workout. “I just wanted to work on my game.” In a surreal scene that encapsulated Bryant’s reputation as being wholly dedicated to the game, Bryant completed a series of extensive shooting drills, working in shots off the dribble along with catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and free throws.
From Stephen A. Smith, ESPNLA: In the locker room, black towel draped over his shoulders and chest, his knees, feet and ankles swallowed in ice, it was easy to decipher Kobe Bryant’s mood. Back out on the floor, long after the game had ended, firing shots from all over the floor, there was no doubt about Bryant’s resolve. Nor about his disappointment. His Los Angeles Lakers, riding an eight-game winning streak, having elevated their game and their prowess by riding the shoulders of big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol the past two weeks, picked a fine time to come up as miniature as they had appeared entering the All-Star break. When it counted, against a star-studded cast rendered helpless against size, length and heart all season, neither Lakers big man showed up, especially on defense.
From Brian Windhorst, Heat Index: In retrospect, LeBron James wished he’d missed the last insurance free throw in the Miami Heat’s biggest win of the season. “It means we still can’t win games by five points or less,” James said. “We still can’t crack that.” It’s true, the Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers by six points, 94-88, on Thursday night. That nagging record in those five-point games still stands at 5-13. James’ joke wasn’t just a jab at the scrutiny the Heat have been under recently, it was mostly an expression of relief. That was the overwhelming reaction after they outdueled the Lakers at a clear flash point in the Heat’s season. Getting any win over any team would have eased the burden Miami has been carrying for the past two weeks. Beating the two-time defending champs while they were red-hot and doing it by outplaying them in the stretch run, though, was like hitting a momentum jackpot.
From Bill Simmons, ESPN.com: Fast-forward 23 years. I still hate the Lakers. I don’t hate the MoHeatos, but there’s nothing more perversely fun than watching them blow games after how last summer was handled. Thursday night, I realized that Lakers-Heat games turn me into a bizarro version of the mother from “The Good Son.” In other words, I don’t know which kid to drop faster. To be honest, I assumed the Heat would make the decision easy by caving like they always do. They were closing in on the dreaded Point of No Return: five straight losses, some finger pointing, some crying, som- … wait, players cried? Yup. Players cried. Or so the coach said. With the Lakers coming to town, with a TNT audience watching, with Kobe looking to avenge a Christmas Day shellacking, with Bosh slowly turning into Private Pyle, with Miami’s crunch-time woes worsening to the point that I kept waiting for them to sign Karl Malone … it just seemed like the perfect time to break out a running diary.
From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: If you were to tell me two weeks ago that the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat would play a hotly contested game, with a playoff atmosphere, and the game would be decided solely on the basis of who wanted it more, I would have just about bet the house on the Lakers winning the game. But circumstances change, and those circumstances (Miami on a 5-game losing streak, the Lakers on an 8-game winning streak) dictated that it was Miami that entered this game as the team desperate to taste victory. And so they did, out-crunching the Lakers and pulling out a 94-88 win that will stem the tide of all the panic press that has descended on South Florida. This was not what you would call a pretty game. Ironically, the 1.13 points per possession posted by the Heat looks fantastic, and the 1.06 PPP posted by L.A. is OK, too, but both of these numbers were driven by an insane level of offensive rebounding.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: It was the night for the Miami Heat to show it could play with the big boys. And the Lakers weren’t quite big enough at the end. The slumping Heat rallied in the second half to beat the Lakers, 94-88, on Thursday night. It was not just a triumph of Miami’s speed over the Lakers’ size, as in the team’s first matchup on Christmas. This time, the Heat produced 46 points in the paint to the Lakers’ 30 to end the Lakers’ eight-game winning streak. “I hope to see them again sometime this year,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. The Lakers failed to execute down the stretch, when Miami coach Erik Spoelstra exploited them repeatedly with the same alignment of LeBron James as a decoy for Dwayne Wade to attack.
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Andrew Bynum finally had a bad night. In a sign of how far the Lakers’ center had progressed, it was difficult to call 13 points and 12 rebounds a bad experience, but he insisted on it. “It took me a while to get going today. I don’t really know why,” Bynum said after the Lakers’ 94-88 loss Thursday to the Miami Heat. “I was roaming. I just wasn’t being quite as active. I’ll watch the tape a little bit.” Bynum saw his rebounding spree (50 in the previous three games) ease up a bit after he took only one before halftime. It was a main talking point of a fairly even first half: Bynum had only one rebound in almost 16 minutes? Turns out he sustained a minor injury, landing on the foot of a Heat player in the second quarter and saying he tweaked his right ankle.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Here is what you need to know about what Thursday night meant to the Lakers, and why Kobe Bryant has pushed his teams to two consecutive titles. Thirty minutes after the Heat defeated the Lakers 94-88 in a game where Kobe’s shot was off after the first quarter (8-21 overall after starting 4-4) and his shot selection down the stretch was terrible, he was back on the court and started shooting. In an empty AmericanAirlines Arena after a tough game Kobe was putting himself through a workout and trying to fix his jumper. He was out there for an extended period just trying to fix what went wrong. In the end, both the Lakers and the Heat may be better because of what happened Thursday night.