Lakers hit wrong notes in fourth quarter and lose to Heat, 107-97

MIAMI — It would add some weight to the charter flight, but the Lakers should look into adding a small piano on the team plane.

Kobe Bryant loves to sit and play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” to calm himself after a bad loss, or a non-energetic victory, and he had that look about him Sunday evening.

The Lakers played almost a perfect game through three quarters, led by Bryant, but fell apart in the fourth and lost to the Miami Heat, 107-97, at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Bryant spent a long time in a side alcove of the visitors’ locker room, partly to ice his knees and partly to talk to Coach Mike D’Antoni about what to do with the Lakers.

It was a friendly discussion, with some unspecified tweaks recommended by Bryant to the relatively new Lakers coach.

It belied the beleaguered way Bryant looked after the game. As LeBron James and Dwyane Wade hugged at one end in the final seconds, Bryant stood with hands on hips at the other.

He eventually gave each of them a one-armed hug, his other hand planted firmly on his left hip. Then Wade seemed to whisper some encouragement to him.

Are the defending champions feeling sorry for Bryant? If so, can’t really blame them.

The Lakers (24-28) finished 4-3 on their Grammy trip and remained several games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

They have 30 games left in their season. Time has been running out for a while. Other teams are faster, more nimble and more poised. Also better down low, somewhat shockingly.

For a moment, Bryant flickered back to the agonizing but undeniably successful times with Shaquille O’Neal. He smiled when asked if the Wade-James combination was unfair to the other 29 teams.

“Well, I can’t really complain about it,” Bryant said. “I had another guy some-odd years ago that, we dominated the league. So I really can’t say too much.”

Bryant longing for O’Neal? Chalk it up as another strange turn in a season full of churn.

Dwight Howard was supposed to be the new O’Neal, a force down low, the cornerstone for a franchise chasing its 17th NBA championship.

He had 15 points and nine rebounds against the Heat, still playing with a sore shoulder and occasional numbness in his legs from back surgery, and still not making the difference on a team dying for a post presence with Pau Gasol out, possibly until April.

Early in the third quarter, with the teams locked in a close game, Steve Nash found Howard underneath but Howard fumbled the bounce pass. Nash and Howard then had words about it.

Howard wanted it up high and Nash argued it should have been down low. It was in front of 20,300 fans and also a network audience.

Hey, why keep things private any longer?

The score was tied at halftime and the Lakers trailed by only five going into the fourth quarter, but eight turnovers in the final 10 minutes sealed their fate.

Bryant had 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting and nine assists with four turnovers, three costly ones coming in the final six minutes.

“I thought for the most part we played hard,” Bryant said. “They got a couple of sensational players over there that made some big plays.”

James had 32 points on 12-for-18 shooting and glaringly outplayed Metta World Peace, who had nine points on three-for-11 shooting, not to mention a complete inability to stop James.

Wade had 30 points, also making 12 of 18 shots, and pushed the Heat (34-14) past the Lakers with 16 in the fourth quarter.

“They’re quicker to the ball. All the 50-50 balls, they got,” D’Antoni said. “They’re much more athletic than we are, so they got to them and we need to be a little bit more alert. Most of it was, our foot speed’s not as good as their foot speed.”

Or maybe the Lakers just aren’t as good, period, in the matchup that was billed several long months ago as a possible NBA Finals preview.