The two-time defending champion Heat were heavy favorites in the holiday matchup against a Lakers team beset by injuries — including the broken bone in superstar Kobe Bryant’s left knee.
Bryant’s absence robbed the contest of some of its marquee value, but the 35-year-old star said before the game that he had every confidence he’d be back this season.
“The spirits are fine,” said Bryant, who had played in just six games this season after returning from a torn left Achilles tendon suffered last April.
The Lakers, losers of their last two contests, managed to stick with the Heat for much of the game, which was tied 83-83 with 8:25 remaining.
But the Heat authored a 9-0 scoring run to take control for good.
“You can’t ever underestimate teams like that, that have been counted out because of all the injuries but have found a way to win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That shows a grittiness, that you’re going to have to earn it.”
Wade and Chris Bosh both scored 23 points for the Heat. Wade added seven assists and six rebounds and Bosh pulled down 11 rebounds.
James’s 19 points were relatively modest by his standards, but included a couple of thrilling alley-oop dunks with assists from Wade.
The first, with 3:54 remaining in the opening quarter, saw Wade toss a no-look pass to a charging James who slammed it home with his right hand.
Even more dazzling was their combination that began with Wade’s one-handed pass off the backboard that a flying James snagged with his left hand and thrust through the basket.
“I was just trying to chase it down,” James said. “I had no idea what he was going to do. It went off the glass and the only way I could get it was with my left hand.”
James might have been inspired by his young sons — 6-year-old Bryce and 9-year-old Bronny. He posted Instagram video Wednesday morning of the boys combining for an ally-oop dunk on a toy hoop in their Los Angeles hotel.
While James made the road trip a family affair, the Heat were disappointed that their status as defending champions hadn’t earned them a home game on the holiday.
“We talked to the league about that already,” Wade said.
Oklahoma City also notched a Christmas road win — their first on the holiday in 10 attempts.
Kevin Durant scored 20 of his 29 points in the first half and Russell Westbrook notched his first triple-double of the season and seventh of his career with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Thunder to a 123-94 victory over the Knicks in New York.
The Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony, who was ruled out with a sprained left ankle suffered on Monday against Orlando.
The Chicago Bulls beat the Nets 95-78 in Brooklyn.
Taj Gibson scored 20 points off the bench to lead six Chicago players in double figures. Jimmy Butler scored 11 of his 15 points in the third quarter and Carlos Boozer added 14 four the Bulls, who won back-to-back games for the first time since a five-game winning streak in November.
The Houston Rockets also won on the road as James Harden returned from a two-game absence and led all five Rockets starters in double figures with 28 points in a 111-98 win at San Antonio.