Lakers fans at the Staples Center on Sunday, did not have to ask “Just who was that masked man” as Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant was recognizable just from his performance on the court as he led his club to a 93-83 victory over the Miami Heat. The “Black Mamba” wearing a full-faced plastic mask to protect his broken nose, did not seem to be hindered with the extra equipment as he knocked down a game high 33 points in the win. Metta World Peace added 17 points while both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol notched double-doubles in the contest.
The win for the Lakers puts them atop the Pacific Division, as they hold a half game advantage over their building mates the Clippers with the other team from Los Angeles in Houston to face the Rockets later Sunday night. It also puts them now in the third seed in the Western Conference Playoff race.
It was the second straight loss for the visitors, as they could not really get their team offense in gear for the entire game. The squad missed having power forward Chris Bosh, who was away on leave due to death in the family. Miami shot an anemic 37.5% (33-88) from the floor for the game, although LeBron James had a strong performance as he racked up a double-double with 25 points.
The Lakers were hot coming out of the gate, while the Heat looked rather lethargic and tentative at the start of the action. The home team pulled away early, however Miami did cut their deficit to 22-18 with 2:20 left in the period as James rattled the rim as he slammed the ball home. Los Angeles would finish out the period in a 6-2 run and held a 28-20 cushion at the end of the quarter.
The visitors could never get any closer than trailing by seven points at any point of the second. With 1:54 left to play Peace drained a 25 foot jumper and as the Lakers entered their locker room as the game reached the half, they were firmly in charge with the score 50-38.
Los Angeles held a double-digit lead for much of the third, however the Heat would threaten late in the period. Mario Chalmers drove the lane putting the ball up and in with 2:06 left in the period and Miami was right back in the contest, trailing by just two points with the score 64-62. Their excitement would not last for long as their hosts finish on a 7-0 run and be on top 71-62 as the quarter came to an end.
Los Angeles would remain in charge throughout the fourth, as Miami would never pose any sort of threat in the final 12 minutes of play and the Lakers would win the game with ease.
Bryant knocked down 33 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist while Peace had 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists and 1 block. Bynum scored 16 points, 13 boards, 4 blocks and 2 assists while Gasol added 11 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, a block and a steal.
James scored 25 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks for the game. Chalmers had 16 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block while Dwyane Wade chipped in 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. Los Angeles now has a record of 23-14 and will travel to Auburn Hills to take on the Pistons on Tuesday while Miami now has a 28-9 mark and they will host the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday.