NBA superstar LeBron James racked up a triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Miami Heat blasted the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, 96-80, on Dec. 25 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

James has been much criticized for his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join fellow superstar Dwayne Wade in Miami. But his decision appeared to be a wise one, as the Heat dominated the league’s best team on Christmas Day.

Miami followed the rhythm of its newest star LeBron, who also knocked down a season-high five three-pointers to go along with his triple-double.

This marked the second straight year that James has beat up the Lakers on Christmas Day; his former team routed Los Angeles, 102-87, last year. But the Lakers still went on to win the NBA title last season, while Cleveland lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Perhaps that’s why LeBron was quick to dismiss the holiday victory as a preview of this season’s NBA Finals.

“We’re not trying to make a statement to anyone,” James said following the game. “We’re trying to show each other that we can play at a high level and try to get better every game. This is one game. … We’re happy because we got better today.”

Heat star forward Chris Bosh accompanied James with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Wade added 18 points on a sore knee to help Miami win its ninth consecutive game, and 14th in their last 15 games.

But it wasn’t the Heat’s scoring ability that impressed fans. Instead, it was Miami’s stout defense that now has basketball pundits ready to proclaim the Heat as a serious title contender. “Our whole thing is just playing solid defense the whole game,” Bosh said. “That’s the primary part of our identity. Our backbone right now is defense.”

Miami was able to limit Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant to only 17 points, while holding Pau Gasol to just 17 points as well.

Bryant, who was called for a third technical foul in just two games, showed his frustration during the game and after.

“It’s like these games mean more to our opponents than they do to us,” Bryant said. “I think we need to get that straight—play with more focus, put more on these games. I don’t like it.”

Bryant suggested that his team’s lack of focus may be due to the team growing too satisfied after winning back-to-back championships the last two seasons. But that’s an attitude he won’t let linger around for long.

“I don’t like it,” Bryant said. “You don’t just have two rings and say, ‘That’s enough. We’re satisfied with what we’ve got.’ I’m not going to let that slide.”

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor