Lakers end their Miami losing streak with 131-113 defeat of the Heat
This game was Isaiah Thomas reminding you how good he can be.
It was Dwyane Wade reminding you that not long ago, and for 13 years, he ruled this building.
It was Lonzo Ball reminding you how spectacular he can be, how much he helped the Lakers before his injury, even if he wasn’t scoring.
It was the Lakers reminding you that they actually can win in Miami.
After three days in the city whose nightlife wears out many an NBA team, the Lakers beat the Heat, 131-113, dominating the home team for most of the game. It was the first time they have won in Miami since February of 2008. The Lakers are now 4-0 since the All-Star break and 27-34, which surpasses the win totals of the past four seasons.
“It was beautiful to watch Isaiah in the fourth quarter again,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, who was a Lakers reserve in 2008 when the Lakers last won here. “It was flashback to what he did to everybody last season. It was a lot of fun to watch that, see him do his thing.”
Said Thomas: “I’m not here to prove to anybody I can do it. The world knows what I bring to the table and my job is just to help this team get to the next level and win and continue to compete and continue to get better.”
Wade and Thomas put on a show. Wade scored 25 points in his seventh game back with the Heat since being traded from Cleveland. At one point Wade found himself hounded by Ball, only to step back and score anyway.
“I wish it wasn’t against us,” said Ball, who grew up watching the 36-year-old shooting guard play. “I wish I saw that on TV. But yeah he looks good, getting to the basket, hitting pull-ups. The shot on me today, I was just like, I don’t know how much better defense I can play.”
“I was given more opportunity, coach put me in a position to be who I am,” Thomas said. “Teammates set good screens to get me open and I got the easy part, putting the ball in the basket. It all came together tonight.”
Plenty of Thomas’ playing time came with Ball, who made his first start for the Lakers since Jan. 13, when he suffered a sprained left knee that caused him to miss six weeks and 15 consecutive games. He didn’t shoot the ball much, making three of five shots. But that is never his best attribute anyway.
Instead, Ball found his teammates in positions to score. He fought for rebounds, getting his team extra possessions. In the first half, Ball made three steals, once sending the ball forward to Kyle Kuzma for a breakaway dunk. At another point, he called over Thomas to get the Lakers into a play that got Thomas another three-pointer.
“To me, he was probably the best player on the court tonight,” Walton said of Ball.
The Lakers trailed by three after one quarter, but pulled away in the second, leading by as many as 14 points. Julius Randle had 21 points by halftime, 25 over all.
In the second half, they kept a safe distance from the Heat, who could never get closer to eight points.
And in the fourth quarter, Thomas ignited.
“I played most of the fourth,” Thomas said. “If I play I’m gonna produce. That’s just who I am, that’s who I always been. Injury is not gonna stop me from doing that. Coach is going to put this team in the best position to win and like I said, when my name is called I’m gonna be more than ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”
An opportunity is all Thomas seeks. He got one in Boston last year and led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals. He might earn another one with his play for the Lakers in the final fourth of this season.
After the shoot-around Thursday morning, Thomas sat on the scorer’s table at American Airlines Arena and considered what’s to come for him this offseason. Thomas is in the final year of his contract.
“All you need is one team to love you,” Thomas said. “It’s like the draft all over again. You just need one team. So that is all I am doing and working toward. Until then, I am focused on doing whatever I can to make this the best team possible.”
Then a few hours later he backed up those words, his performance a reminder in a night full of them.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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