LOS ANGELES - Despite the struggles of the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade expected a stiff challenge. Being the two-time NBA champions brings out the best in teams.
"We get a tough game every night out. That's just the way it is," Wade said.
And a stiff challenge is what the Lakers provided. However, Wade and Miami center Chris Bosh scored 23 points apiece as the Heat held off the Lakers for a 101-95 victory before a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center on Wednesday.
Forward LeBron James finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while guard Ray Allen added 12 points for the Heat.
Reserve guard Nick Young led with the Lakers with 20 points. Guard Jodie Meeks scored 17, while guard Xavier Henry came off the bench for 14 points. Center Pau Gasol had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Lakers faded down the stretch as the Heat (22-6) captured their sixth consecutive victory and their eighth in the past nine games. Los Angeles (13-16) dropped its third in a row and seventh in the last nine.
"We just keep playing our game," said Wade, who hit 11 of his 17 shots from the floor. "It was 81-81 at one point, but we just had to keep working. We had to come out on offense and run our sets. Execute. On the defensive end, try to make them take tough shots, rebound the ball and get out a little bit.
"This is what we're used to. We don't blow a lot of teams out. We know we're going to get teams' best shots. It's about getting wins."
After Young scored on a drive to tie the score at 83 with 8:25 remaining, the Heat answered with a 9-0 run capped by a jumper from guard Norris Cole that made it 92-83 with 4:04 left in the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer by forward Wesley Johnson, who finished with 12 points, cut the margin to 94-88 with about three minutes remaining, and a free throw by Meeks closed the gap to 96-92 with 1:26 left.
But Wade scored on a reverse layup with 52.9 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Heat.
"They made a couple of big plays down the stretch," said Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar, who returned after missing 10 games with a strained hamstring.
Even with his return, Farmar missed of six of his seven field goal attempts and recorded only two assists in 32 minutes.
"We needed stops but we couldn't get it," Farmar said.
The Lakers started fast, building a 10-point lead in the first quarter, before the Heat seized control in the second quarter. Bosh scored all 13 of his first-half points in the second, helping Miami outscore the Lakers 30-19 for a 51-46 halftime lead. Wade had nine points in the quarter.
Bosh, though, played a big key in the victory.
"When he's rebounding at a high level, that gets him activated," James said of his teammate. "Then we (saw) a set that we could get him going."
Miami also held a 32-14 edge over the Lakers with points in the paint in the first half. Overall, they finished with 58 points to only 26 for the Lakers.
"I just went with the flow of the game and stayed with it," said Bosh, who was 9 of 18 from the field and pulled down 11 rebounds. "I thought about where my spots would be.
"I got a couple of good looks in the first quarter, but just missed them. But after that, I just made an effort to get to the basket a little more and it worked out."
A four-point play by Young, on a foul by James, pulled Los Angeles to within 66-64 less than four minutes into the third period. But a 3-point basket by reserve forward Rashard Lewis capped a 10-3 Heat spurt for a 76-67 advantage with 1:31 remaining in the quarter.
The Lakers scored the final seven points as Young, who had 12 in the third, drilled a trey with 8.9 seconds to cut Miami's lead to 76-74 heading into the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Kobe Bryant held a press conference before the game, the first time he has met with the local media since suffering a fractured left knee Dec. 17 at Memphis. "I was really expecting a bone bruise more than anything else," Bryant said when he learned of the diagnosis. "I actually thought (the doctor) was joking." Bryant, who is expected to miss least six weeks, said he expects to return before the end of the season. "My job as an athlete is to train, get healthy, get strong and come back and do my job," said Bryant, who dismissed speculation he might have returned too early from tearing an Achilles, which kept him out eight months before he returned Dec. 8. ... Heat G Dwyane Wade returned after sitting out Miami's overtime win Monday over Atlanta to rest his knees.