NBA & Atlanta Hawks

Lakers’ dynamic duo put the hurt on the Heat

LOS ANGELES – In a game that had reached a stagnation phase for long periods, LeBron James pulled the Los Angeles Lakers out of their doldrums with a sterling display in fourth quarter.

His 12 points in the fourth that pushed his total to 25 carried the Lakers to a 95-80 win over a pesky and hard-playing Miami Heat team Friday night at Staples Center before 18,997 fans.

His string of three straight triple-doubles was snapped, but James' play helped the Lakers win their seventh consecutive game and improve to 7-1.

His five-for-eight shooting in the fourth is what helped the Lakers finally break free from the zone defense that the Heat played from the second quarter to slow down Los Angeles.

"I think he picks his spots on when to be assertive and when to play for his teammates," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said about James. "Throughout all that while he is picking his spots, he's going to be in attack mode, he's going to read the defense. That's simply what it is. A lot of times early on, everybody is geared into him. They are bringing a lot of help so he's just making the right play. It's not about him being assertive or passive. He's used to being in attack mode."

The Heat had cut a 14-point lead the Lakers had built in the third quarter to 78-71 in the fourth.

James responded by scoring the Lakers' six straight points in the fourth, increasing their lead to 84-76.

James finished off his night and the Heat with back-breaking, back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Lakers a 93-77 lead.

He departed the game with one minute and 18 seconds left to a standing ovation.

James' running mate, Anthony Davis, made up for his poor game at Chicago.

Davis was the man in the first three quarters, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Davis had a season-low 15 points on six-for-15 shooting at Chicago on Tuesday night.

Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 22 points and Goran Dragic had 19 for the 6-3 Heat.

Avery Bradley was back starting again after missing Tuesday night's game at Chicago with a bruised lower right leg that he suffered in Sunday night's game at San Antonio.

Bradley got off to a quick start for the Lakers, scoring six points in the first, helping them build an 11-point lead by the end of the quarter.

But by the half, after the Heat went to a zone defense in the second quarter, the Lakers lost some of their steam and saw their lead cut to 48-46 at the intermission.

James and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were together for four years in Miami, the two of them along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh winning two NBA championships together.

Before the game in which Wade also attended, Spoelstra offered high praise for the way James has played in his 17th season.

"That's one of the best qualities that I've always admired about LeBron, that he puts so much into the game and into his craft," Spoelstra said. "And a large part of that is his body and his physical well-being. To prepare himself at that level every single night for 82 games and beyond in the playoffs, that's a commitment a lot of players are not willing to do, and that's what makes him uncommon. We have a couple guys like that, too. Jimmy was like that, Dwyane was like that. But that's unique, and it's a great example for young players coming in to see just how much you have to put in to stay at that level physically. And that, in turn, is the fountain of youth."