The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2nd straight Christmas....sending Kobe Bryant back once again without a win over his greatest personal rival, Shaquille O'Neal. This time, Miami won 97-92.
For the 2nd straight Christmas...it was a very good game. To me, the hype was too much....as aside from the tip-off [where Shaq didn't even look Kobe's way] the game was the same as any other NBA game. The stars shined; role players played well [the Miami ones did]; and it came down to the end. Miami won with Shaq's aggresiveness at the end....Payton's strong game...and some timly rebounding. The Lakers lost due to Kobe's cold streak in the 2nd half...the bench not showing up....and some questionable coaching decisions.
Here is a take from buddy of mine, Johnnysee:
"As a result of all the hype, this game has taken on the significance of
a playoff game and, coming as it does, just a couple of months into the
season and still a couple of months before the all-star break, stands -
artificially or not - as something of a landmark exhibition.
The perfect opportunity to assess the game and the state of the team,
coming out of it.
First, the game; another close contest, another Christmas loss.
Somehow, even last year when the Lakers were nowhere near as
well-organized as this year's version, the overmatched Lakers have
managed to remain competitive and, at least this season, but for a few
regrettable and, it turns out, fatal mistakes, we were in a position to
take it. Strange, that. Talent and experience would dictate all Heat
blowouts, and yet, each one has ended with Zo, rubbing Shaq's relieved
shoulders as the buzzer sounded on yet another squeaker. Clearly,
these games seem even more important for the Heat than they do the
Lakers, given the body-language and intensity on their bench, and they
certainly seem more important to Shaq. Kobe wants to win as much if
not more than the next guy, don't get me wrong, but you get the feeling
he recovers from the losses to the Heat a helluvalot faster and easier
than Shaq might, were the Kobe Zoom on the other foot, so to speak.
What does LA take away from this? First and foremost, gotta learn from
the mistakes and lapses... and that includes the coaching staff. But
there's good news too. Kwame and Mihm can defend anyone in this
league. Only Mihm can score, sadly, but both can rebound and both can
body-up against Big Little Man and if they can work him, they can work
anyone... except Kevin Garnett, of course.
Smush and Sasha I don't worry about. Call it nerves. Call it
inexperience. Games like this are gonna happen to kids like that.
Walton? He'll bounce back.
If I were Phil, though, I'd take a look in the mirror and think about
And finally, the state of the team; I give 'em a B-minus. Till today
it was a solid B. Maybe even a B-plus. But they're tired. Exhausted.
Especially Kobe, thanks to Phil. Tomorrow night worries me. If the
Lakers are to beat the Wizzards, it's gonna come down to the bench and
everyone of our starters not named Kobe, who needs and deserves a rest,
but - again, thanks to Phil - isn't gonna get one for a couple of days.
Overall, ya gotta feel pretty good about the way things are going, just
as you've gotta curse the stupid mistakes, knowing how much better
things might've gone without 'em."
CHECK OUT YANNIS' TAKE HERE: Christmas Wrap Up
From JRowe:"But the Lakers lost by 5 points. The Lakers aren't deemed to be on par with the Heat, had the lead late in the game, and they (the Heat) had to scramble to avoid embarrassment. As it is, the Lakers were in position to send the game into OT, but just didn't do it. Remember folks, they're rebuilding, have been on a nice roll, and came ever so close to pulling out a monumental upset. That's what so upsetting. With a still young team, they were the Little Engine that Could (but not quite) against a veteranteam supposedly with its shit together, with the legendary "Riles" on the bench, and the Big Ingrate in the middle. Had the Lakers lost by 20 or more, then it might be worse. But keeping this close, as bad as the after taste is (similar or the same as the Spurs game), the Lakers are staying with these guys. Look at this as growth. We can't have situations where we're suddenly starting to beat these guys (the top level teams), when in fact the team was in disarray only a few weeks ago. These have been huge steps in recent times from a team playing woeful defensive, to keeping the vaunted Heat with their allstar cast under 100 points."