A Christmas miracle was not in the cards, but the Los Angeles Lakers did not embarrass their fans, their jerseys or their city. Ultimately, the Lakers came to play, but late-game execution was the difference. Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat are two-time champions, and the Lakers are, well, not.
Somehow, the Lakers were tied with eight and a half minutes to play. After leading by 10 points in the first quarter and trailing by nine points in the third quarter, the game would come down to late game execution. Unfortunately for the home team, the Heat held a decided advantage in that department.
To be fair to the Lakers, they were playing with units that, frankly, had never played together and definitely had been not asked to play together in these types of pressure situations. With a national audience watching a primetime game, the Lakers had rookie Ryan Kelly and 22-year-old Xavier Henry on the floor in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, Miami would pull away and the game would end with the Lakers losing 101-95.
Nick Young, aka “Swaggy P,” is not a mainstream star, but he stepped forward to steal the spotlight away from Miami’s “big three” for a short spell. After a poor first half where Young shot 1/8, the former USC Trojan changed his shoes and scored 17 points in the second half, including a 4-point play over LeBron James.
Young was electric and his energy kept the arena alive. He finished off the third quarter by attacking James one-on-one. Young hit a 26-foot 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining in the third quarter. James came back and attempted to match Young’s shot on the other end, but James’ shot rimmed out. “Swaggy P” took on the league MVP one-on-one and won. The crowd went wild.
The Lakers were not expected to beat the Heat, and most NBA analysts expected the game to be a one-sided blowout. It wasn’t. The Lakers fought, they played hard and they gave themselves a chance to win.
“To come back and fight like that today is a step forward, I think, for us,” Young said after the game.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was complimentary of the Heat before the game and continued to pile on the praise after.
“Those guys are the best the league has to offer,” D’Antoni said about the Heat after the game. “LeBron (James is) so strong.”
The Lakers lost on Christmas, but it was not all doom and gloom. The Lakers played the defending champions until the final buzzer, and the team can take away plenty of positives from the loss.