There was supposed to be so much appeal, so much zing, when this game was plotted out on the NBA schedule.
Instead, the Miami Heat merely became the latest statistic in the Lakers’ 10-game winning streak.
Shaquille O’Neal’s relocation to Phoenix three weeks ago undercut his annual trip to play the Lakers at Staples Center, not that the home team seemed to mind in a 106-88 victory Thursday over the hapless Heat.
Jordan Farmar had another prominent effort, scoring a career-high 24 points, and Kobe Bryant had 21 points as the Lakers won for the 13th time in 14 games.
If the Lakers win tonight in Portland, they tie the ninth-longest winning streak in team history. The 2003-04 Lakers also won 11 consecutive games.
“We just want to keep it rolling,” Coach Phil Jackson said. “We just want to keep this energy going the right direction.”
The Lakers never trailed and led by 18 in the second quarter, leaving little drama in a game that typically held plenty of it in recent seasons.
On the other hand, there were enough highlight-type plays to make the ticket-holders happy, be it Bryant’s block of Shawn Marion’s layup attempt at the end of the third quarter or Farmar’s break-neck drives from one end of the court to the other for layups.
Then there was the tic-tac-toe play in the third quarter that started with Bryant’s off-balance over-the-head flip downcourt to Luke Walton, who hit Lamar Odom with a behind-the-back pass for a dunk and 67-52 lead.
These are ragged times for the Heat (10-45) two seasons after winning the NBA championship, although Coach Pat Riley cited the Lakers as a blueprint for how quickly things could turn around.
“Four years ago, they made a massive change in personality when they traded Shaquille,” Riley said. “They didn’t make the playoffs the first year. Over the next two years, they got injuries. And now they’re here.”
Riley, who coached the Lakers from 1981 to 1990, liked what he saw of their growth this season.
“They’re a very mature team from a standpoint of their young players developing through playing time,” he said. “I think Phil has done an absolutely great job and then they made the trade of all trades and got [Pau] Gasol and it put them over the top. I’m very impressed by the other guys too. . . . They have a lot of good young players who have matured and developed.”
One of those players would obviously be Farmar, who followed up his 21-point effort Tuesday against Portland by making nine of 14 shots against Miami.
“It’s funny, I told my dad today I was going to get it tonight,” Farmar said of his career-high. “I’ve just been feeling good, just being really aggressive. I was joking in a sense, but once the game started going and I started knocking down some shots, I felt that I had an opportunity.”
When asked about Farmar’s last two games, Jackson gave a thumbs-up sign and smiled.
“I liked it,” he said.
The Lakers had four players with 10 or more rebounds for the first time since a November 1989 game against Golden State. Ronny Turiaf had 12 rebounds and Walton, Odom and Gasol each had 11. Magic Johnson, James Worthy, A.C. Green and Mychal Thompson each had 10 or more for the Lakers against the Warriors.
The Heat didn’t have many answers for the Lakers. Even Dwyane Wade was off the mark.
Wade had three fouls and was scoreless in the first half as the Lakers led at halftime, 53-41. He finished with 18 points on six-for-17 shooting.
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The Lakers or Phil Jackson have been in the NBA Finals every leap year since 1980:
Los Angeles Times