The Miami Heat forced 20 turnovers and got 39 points from LeBron James en route to 99-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in L.A.
The Lakers managed to keep things close until a late push by the Heat, despite an abysmal shooting night from Kobe Bryant. Bryant, the NBA's leading vote-getter for the 2013 All-Star Game, started out 3-for-17 before catching fire late. Despite his improved play down the stretch, he still finished an ugly 8-for-25 from the floor.
Miami's swarming defense generated a team-record 14 steals on the night, and the Heat capitalized with 23 points off of turnovers. That defensive aggression helped the Heat withstand another beating on the boards: L.A. outrebounded the Heat 42-35.
In the end, James simply wouldn't be denied, as he spearheaded Miami's stunning halfcourt defense in the fourth quarter. Along with Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, the Heat blitzed L.A.'s ball-handlers, forcing them away from the middle and denying passing lanes to Dwight Howard in the middle.
It was a defensive clinic reminiscent of the one Miami put on during last year's championship run.
L.A. should be mildly encouraged, considering it stayed close against an obviously inspired Heat team.
Miami moved to 26-12 with the win, while Los Angeles fell to 17-22 in defeat.
Final Score: Heat 99, Lakers 90