In a game that had stagnated for long periods,LeBron James pulled the Lakers out of their doldrums with a sterling display in the fourth quarter.
James scored 12 of his 25 points in the final 12 minutes, carrying the Lakers to a 95-80 win over a pesky and hard-playing Miami Heat team Friday night at Staples Center before 18,997 fans.
His string of triple-doubles was snapped at three, but James’ play helped the Lakers (7-1) win their seventh consecutive game. His five-for-eight shooting in the fourth quarter helped the Lakers finally break free from the zone defense that the Heat played from the second quarter.
“I think he picks his spots on when to be assertive and when to play for his teammates,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said about James. “Throughout all that while he is picking his spots, he’s going to be in attack mode, he’s going to read the defense.
“A lot of times early on, everybody is geared into him. They are bringing a lot of help so he’s just making the right play. It’s not about him being assertive or passive. He’s used to being in attack mode.”
The Heat had cut a 14-point deficit in the third quarter to 78-71 in the fourth. James responded by scoring the next six points for the Lakers. He finished his night and the Heat with back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Lakers a 92-77 lead, departing with 1:18 left to a standing ovation.
“I’m extra motivated to put myself in a position where I know I belong,” James said. “So it’s my personal motivation every single night I step on the floor to be great.”
James’ running mate, Anthony Davis, made up for his poor game at Chicago on Tuesday night. Davis was the man in the first three quarters, finishing with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 22 points and Goran Dragic had 19 for Miami, which leads the Southeast Division at 6-3.
The Lakers held the Heat to a season-low for an opponent, with Miami shooting 35% from the field and 17.1% (six for 35) from three-point range.
Avery Bradley got off to a quick start for the Lakers, scoring six points in the first quarter, helping them build a seven-point lead by the end of the period.
But by the half, the Lakers lost some of their steam and saw their lead cut to 48-46.
James and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were together for four years in Miami, the two of them along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh winning two NBA championships together.
Before the game, which Wade also attended, Spoelstra offered high praise for the way James has played in his 17th season.
“That’s one of the best qualities that I’ve always admired about LeBron, that he puts so much into the game and into his craft,” Spoelstra said. “And a large part of that is his body and his physical well-being. To prepare himself at that level every single night for 82 games and beyond in the playoffs, that’s a commitment a lot of players are not willing to do, and that’s what makes him uncommon.
“We have a couple guys like that too. Jimmy was like that, Dwyane was like that. But that’s unique, and it’s a great example for young players coming in to see just how much you have to put in to stay at that level physically. And that, in turn, is the fountain of youth.”