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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Heat beat Lakers, end losing streak

MIAMI (AP) Less than 2 minutes to go, tie game, Kobe Bryant with the basketball and staring down Dwyane Wade.

News photo
Playoff berth secured: Miami's LeBron James drives to the basket against Los Angeles in the third quarter on Thursday night. The Heat beat the Lakers 94-88. AP PHOTO

Bryant's move was good.

Wade's reaction was better.

And in that moment, Miami's epic run of blown opportunities late in games started coming to an end.

Wade's steal set up LeBron James for the dunk that put Miami ahead to stay with 1:27 left, Chris Bosh scored 24 points in his first outing after saying he wanted more shots, and the Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers 94-88 on Thursday night to end a five-game losing streak and hand the two-time defending NBA champions their first loss in nine games.

"We had everything riding on this game, really, to be honest with you," Bosh said.

Wade scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and James finished with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Miami, which secured a postseason bid with 17 games left — the earliest that's happened in franchise history.

That was an ancillary point: Winning again was all that mattered.

"We didn't want to run away from this," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We didn't want to hide from any of this. We want to get better. We want to make sure our game is right and ready when it really counts."

Bryant scored 24 points for the Lakers, who got 20 from Pau Gasol. Andrew Bynum finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds for Los Angeles. And after the Lakers cleared out for a night in Miami — they're not flying out until Friday — Bryant stayed behind, taking hundreds of shots in a workout that lasted well over an hour and didn't end until just after midnight in Miami.

Yes, the night — and the ending — left a bad taste in his mouth.

Bryant and Wade tangled again after the steal led to the go-ahead basket, when Bryant tried a 3-pointer with 1:06 left. Wade was credited with a block, and Bryant said afterward he was fouled.

"It's clearly evident," Bryant said.

Said Wade: "I didn't."

That wasn't the lone bit of verbal jousting the teams engaged in Thursday.

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson — who's shown a flair for poking the Heat more than once this season — struck again before tipoff when he likened Miami's tendencies to what you'd see in an Xbox video game.

"I'm not a big fan of the style that Miami plays," Jackson said.

He might like it less now, after the Heat finished off a season sweep of the defending champions.

Mavericks 127, Knicks 109

In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points, Shawn Marion had 22 and Jason Terry 21 and the Mavericks beat New York.

Amare Stoudemire scored 36 points for the Knicks, who had won three straight. Stoudemire also picked up his 16th technical foul, which would trigger an automatic one-game suspension if it's upheld.

Nuggets 116, Suns 97

In Phoenix, Nene scored 22 points in 26 minutes as Denver ran past the Suns.

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