MIAMI, March 11- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, including three critical layups in the final seconds, and the Miami Heat snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 94-88 on Thursday.Chris Bosh scored 24 points to lead Miami, which improved to 44-21 to move within two games of Chicago for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Heat also ended a four-game home losing streak with a much-needed victory.
"What better game than this game to get back on track?" Wade said. "We had to fight it out and we had to come back and make the plays at the end."
LeBron James added 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for the Heat, including two key free throws to create the final margin of victory.
"We had everything riding on this game, really, to be honest," Bosh said.
Despite their recent slump the Heat clinched a playoff berth and served notice their superstar lineup is a legitimate title contender.
"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."
Kobe Bryant scored 24 points to lead the two-time reigning NBA champion Lakers, who had been the NBA’s hottest team with eight victories in a row. They fell to 46-20, third in the Western Conference.
"I just tried to make it tough for him," Wade said of defending Bryant. "He is a great player but I tried to contest every shot. He made two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter but I will take those. They were tough shots."
Wade made his last four shots after hitting only 5-of-19 before that.
"I wanted to be aggressive. I wanted a win," Wade said. "I was going strong to the basket."
Spanish big man Pau Gasol added 20 points while Andrew Bynum added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost both games to Miami this season.
"They played better than we did," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I’m sure we’ll see them again sometime, I’m sure."
The Heat led 55-53 at half-time but the Lakers outscored Miami 17-13 for a 70-68 edge entering the fourth quarter.
Wade answered a pair of Gasol baskets with layups before Bryant sank a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Lakers ahead 85-84 with 4:08 to play.
Bosh and Wade had back-to-back layups only to watch Bryant sink another 3-pointer to level the game at 88-88 with 2:38 remaining.
Wade stole the ball and passed to James for a fast break dunk that put the Heat ahead for good at 90-88 with 87 seconds remaining.
"D-Wade accepted the challenge," James said.
Ron Artest missed twice for the Lakers and Bryant missed a 3-point try before another layup by Wade put the Heat ahead 92-88 with 46 seconds to play.
Bryant and Wade traded turnovers, each losing the ball beyond the baseline, but Bryant missed a long 3-point try on the next Laker possession. Artest then fouled James, who sank two free throws to create the final score.
Bryant and Gasol missed desperation shots and the final buzzer sounded an end to the Heat’s frustration and the Lakers’ win streak.
"We knew this game was going to come down to the end," Wade said. "We had to figure out a way and find a way and we did that."
The Lakers connected on only 29 percent of their shots in the second half.
"We didn’t protect the rim," Bryant said. "We’ve done a good job and then in the fourth quarter we let Wade get all the way to the basket on those screen and roll actions and it cost us."