Sunday NBA odds: LA Lakers at Miami Heat
It looks to be the final meeting of the season on Sunday between the Lakers and Heat, the two preseason NBA championship favorites. Miami remains the odds-on favorite, while the Lakers face a major uphill climb just to get into the postseason.
The Lakers got center Dwight Howard back Thursday after he missed three games with a shoulder injury. It didn’t matter. Howard played 28 minutes, collecting nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the Lakers’ 116-95 loss. Los Angeles lost All-Star forward Pau Gasol earlier this week for up to eight weeks with a foot injury. Gasol was injured in Tuesday night’s win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Heat continue to lead the Eastern Conference despite ranking last in the NBA in rebounding. LeBron James could be on pace for a fourth MVP award. He is shooting a career-high 55.6 percent from the field this season as he takes total efficiency to the ultimate level.
James has gotten the best of Kobe Bryant over his career, with a 12-6 edge in head-to-head matchups. The Heat and Lakers met in Los Angeles on Jan. 17 and Miami won 99-90. James had 39 points and eight assists, and Dwyane Wade added 27 points. Miami scored the final nine points of the game. Ray Allen scored seven of his nine points in the final 5 minutes as the Heat repelled a late charge by the Lakers. The 66 points scored by James and Wade matched the total of the Lakers’ starting five.
The Lakers had no answer for James inside, as he set a career-high by making all 13 shot attempts within 5 feet of the basket, including six dunks. LeBron and Wade combined to make 20-of-21 (95.2 percent) shots inside 5 feet. That is the most field goals made and highest percentage (min. 10 attempts) the duo has combined for on such shots since they became teammates.
The Heat transition game was sparked by 20 Lakers turnovers while they surrendered a season-low six. They outscored the Lakers 25-0 in transition with those easy baskets leading to a season-high 68 points in the paint.
Bryant scored 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for Los Angeles. Dwight Howard had 13 points and 16 rebounds, but missed two key free throws with 1:51 left while Miami pulled away, capping the All-Star starting center’s 5-for-13 effort at the line. The Lakers were outscored 68-28 in the paint. It was the most Los Angeles was outscored in that category in the last 15 years.
This is the final game of the Lakers season-high seven-game road trip due to the Grammy Awards. Los Angeles hasn’t won at AmericanAirlines Arena since Feb. 10, 2008.