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LeBron tops 30 again as Heat dump Lakers

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- Coach Erik Spoelstra's words describing Miami Heat star LeBron James' franchise-record, fifth straight 30-plus-point game could fit neatly on a poster.

"LeBron is making greatness look easy," Spoelstra said after James scored 32 points and sidekick Dwyane Wade added 30 to lead the Heat to a 107-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Both James and Wade made 12 of 18 shots from the floor as Miami improved to 22-3 at home this season and 18-5 against teams from the Western Conference.

The game, which was tied 53-53 at halftime, was fairly close throughout. The Lakers trailed 82-81 with 8:47 left but made five turnovers down that stretch.

The third member of the Heat's "Big Three," Chris Bosh, also made a significant contribution. After missing the previous two games due to the flu, he returned to post 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Bosh's efforts helped the Heat, which ranks near the bottom of the NBA in rebounding, beat the Lakers off the glass, 38-29.

"After his first sweat, Chris got his second wind and was rock solid for us," Spoelstra said of Bosh.

The Heat, which has won five games in a row, continues to lead the Eastern Conference with a 34-14 record.

Perhaps the only negative for the Heat was the continued cold shooting of Ray Allen, who came back from having missed one game due to the flu and went 1-for-6 from the field. He finished with two points.

Over his past four games, Allen -- historically one of the best shooters in NBA history -- is just 4-for-28, 14.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the Lakers (24-28) have much deeper problems. They sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, four games out of the final playoff spot prior to Sunday's late games.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 28 points, nine assists and six rebounds, but Los Angeles allowed the Heat to shoot 55 percent from the field.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said his team just wasn't as athletic as the Heat.

"(The Heat) were quicker to the ball," D'Antoni said. "They got all the 50-50 balls. We need to be more alert because our foot speed is not as good as their foot speed."

While the Heat's shots were evenly distributed among James and Wade -- and even Bosh put up 13 -- the Lakers lacked similar balance.

Bryant made 11 of 19 attempts, but center Dwight Howard, the focus of much controversy regarding how he fits in with Bryant and the Lakers' offense, got just nine shots.

Howard, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, said the rebounding disparity between the Heat and Lakers is easily explained.

"Lots of long rebounds," he said. "The guards need to come back and help."

When asked if he were happy with the amount of shots he got or his role in the offense, he merely looked away.

Howard was fourth on the Lakers in shots Sunday behind Bryant, Earl Clark (8-for-17, 18 points and nine rebounds) and Metta World Peace (3-for-11, nine points).

Despite the controversy, the Lakers finished their road trip with a winning record at 4-3 -- not that it pleased World Peace.

"Four and three is a good trip for a team with a losing mentality," World Peace said. "It's not a good trip for a team with a winning mentality."

D'Antoni said the Lakers need to get point guard Steve Nash "more open" by using pick-and-roll plays and moving the ball quickly.

The coach also said World Peace struggled guarding James, not that anybody could really stop the Heat star the way he is playing right now.

"LeBron is so efficient shooting the ball, he really has no weakness," D'Antoni said of James, who has shot 60 percent or better in each of his past five games. "He is as good as you can get. Maybe someone will come along who is better, but (James) is shooting 3-pointers better, he is posting up.

"He keeps working on his game and getting better -- and that's scary."

NOTES: James was shooting an absurd 72 percent from the field in his past four games entering Sunday, the best stretch of his career. ... Spoelstra said one reason for James' improved shooting this season (56 percent) is his team's acquisition of Allen. "LeBron has the benefit of Ray and the rest of those guys and seeing their shooting routines," Spoelstra said. ... After a 15-21 start, the Lakers have won seven of their past 10 games. ... D'Antoni praised Spoelstra: "He doesn't get his due. He's done an unbelievable job getting his team through some rough spots." ... James and teammates Wade and James Jones spent part of their day off Saturday watching the University of Miami improve to 10-0 in the ACC with a 26-point win over North Carolina. Spoelstra wasn't there, but he said he is a fan of Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga. "What (the 'Canes) have been able to do is very cool," Spoelstra said. ... The Lakers will return home to play the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. ... The Heat end their five-game homestand with a Tuesday date against the Portland Trail Blazers.
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