LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant exacted revenge for his broken nose with a game-high 33 points as the Los Angeles Lakers beat Miami Heat 93-83 in an emotion-charged victory at the Staples Centre on Sunday.
Bryant, who suffered the injury and concussion in a hard foul laid by Miami’s Dwyane Wade during last weekend’s All Star Game, made an early statement with 18 points in the first quarter and added six straight late in the fourth when the visitors threatened.
“He’s a great scorer,” Miami’s LeBron James told reporters of Bryant. “He’s one of the best of all time and he got it going.”
James held his own with 25 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists to lead Miami,who trailed for most of the night, but pulled within six with a little over a minute to go.
Bryant promptly quelled the threat with a jump shot to hand Miami their second straight loss.
“It’s fun to compete against the best,” Bryant told reporters of his head-to-head battles against Wade and James.
“It’s always enjoyable.”
Prior to the contest, both teams claimed there would be no carryover from the All Star Game incident, but emotions ran high. James and Pau Gasol were given technical fouls for a minor dust-up at the end of the third quarter.
Wade was booed roundly by the passionate crowd and he struggled to seven-of-17 shooting for 16 points. He was fouled out with a little more than five minutes left, prompting the Staples Centre to mock him with a standing ovation.
The Heat, who have fallen 1,5 games behind East-leading Chicago, were playing a third straight game without Chris Bosh who has been mourning a death in the family.
Without their top-post presence, Miami shot just 37% in the field and had their second lowest scoring game of the season after managing just 82 in a January 22 loss to Milwaukee.
“We’re a no-excuses team,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “Chris Bosh is a major component to what we do. (But the Lakers) earned it. You have to give them credit.”
Fuelled by an aggressive Bryant and a stingy defence, the Lakers jumped on top early and led by 50-38 at halftime.
The Heat went with a small line-up for the second half, putting James at power forward and bringing in Shane Battier to play small forward.
The ploy appeared to work as they cut the lead to two points late in the third, but Los Angeles responded with a 7-0 run to end the quarter.
Metta World Peace delivered a strong effort for the Lakers with 17 points, and Andrew Bynum was a force in the paint as he finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, helping the Lakers move into third place in the West.