The Los Angeles Lakers have missed having Kobe Bryant out on the court on Christmas Day, as has LeBron James.
Playing without its biggest star, Los Angeles stayed right with the Miami Heat for most of the game before slipping to a 101-95 loss against the defending NBA champions on Wednesday.
Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade each scored 23 points, and James added 19 points in the Heat’s sixth straight win.
Bosh grabbed 11 rebounds and Ray Allen made four 3-pointers for 12 points, helping Miami improve to 5-0 against the Lakers on the holiday.
“I knew we would get a good game out of them, and I think the NBA wanted a good game,” said James, noting the blowout results of the first two games on the league’s holiday schedule.
Bryant was relegated to the sideline with his fractured left knee, leaving him unable to extend his NBA record for Christmas Day appearances to 16.
“It’s not as special when Kobe’s not out there,” said James, who shared a post-game hug with Bryant.
Streaky reserve Nick Young scored 20 points for the Lakers, who were level four times in the fourth quarter. Jodie Meeks added 17 points, Xavier Henry had 14 and Pau Gasol added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Bosh scored 13 of his 23 points in the first half, when Miami trailed 27-21 after the first quarter.
Jordan Farmar returned from a left hamstring tear after missing 10 games, giving the Lakers a true point guard to run the offense. But he was ineffective, with three points and two assists in 32 minutes.
Thunder thrash Knicks
The Lakers played a competitive game against the loaded Heat despite their poor shooting and the absence of Bryant, Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) and Steve Blake (right elbow). They led by 10 points and never trailed by more than that.
In the late game, Golden State edged the Clippers 105-103, capping the day with a close finish after the Thunder thrashed the Knicks 123-94, the Rockets beat the Spurs 111-98 and the Bulls had a 95-78 win over the Nets.
At Oakland, Klay Thompson blocked a shot by Chris Paul and then contested Jamal Crawford’s 3-pointer that fell short at the final buzzer, helping the Golden State Warriors hold off the Los Angeles Clippers in a game that featured a pair of ejections.
Blake Griffin was ejected for his second technical with 10:43 remaining after scuffling with Andrew Bogut, following Golden State’s Draymond Green to the showers after they got into it at the end of the third.
At New York, Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by the middle of the third quarter as Oklahoma rolled past the Knicks, where were playing without Carmelo Anthony.
The Durant-Anthony showdown between the NBA’s top two scorers was cancelled because of Anthony’s sprained left ankle, so the Thunder had the Christmas spotlight to themselves while winning for the 10th time in 11 games.
At San Antonio, James Harden scored 28 points and Dwight Howard had 15 points and 20 rebounds for Houston, which got double figures from all its starting players.