LeBron James had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists while hitting a season-high five 3-pointers, and the Heat thrived on the holiday stage in a 96-80 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Saturday.
Chris Bosh had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Dwyane Wade added 18 points on a sore knee and the Heat won for the 14th time in 15 games while flustering the two-time defending champions into a terrible offensive performance.
Although both teams called the game a television curiosity rather than a potential NBA finals preview, it clearly meant something to James, who had his third triple-double with Miami and the 31st of his career. He also outplayed Bryant again in his second straight Christmas win at Staples Center, punctuating the win with what certainly appeared to be mutual trash talk in the final minutes.
Bryant and Pau Gasol scored 17 points apiece for the Lakers, who fell behind early and never caught up to the tantalizing new contenders for their title.
James played a balanced, patient game, even after a technical foul near halftime for an under-the-basket scuffle with Lakers defensive stopper Ron Artest. James' teammates contributed enough to keep the Heat comfortably ahead, with Bosh playing an outstanding first half and Mario Chalmers contributing 13 points in a reserve role, including three 3-pointers.
Lamar Odom had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost two straight at home after winning five in a row on the road, following up Tuesday's collapse against Milwaukee with this high-profile flop.
Although Bryant wore garish green shoes for the holiday, his Lakers simply didn't raise their games to meet the spotlight that follows Miami, falling well behind in the first half and never making a run.
While the Heat realize Boston and Orlando are much more important obstacles to their championship hopes, and while the Lakers don't get terribly excited about playing anybody except the Celtics, there was a palpable edge in the crowd at Staples Center.
It turned into frustration as the Lakers mostly failed to match the Miami stars' big-game effort. Bryant, who picked up his third technical foul in two games, was visibly displeased with his teammates throughout the second half.
Coach Phil Jackson dislikes the Lakers' annual spot on the NBA's Christmas schedule, and perhaps for reasons beyond the season: Los Angeles dropped to 4-8 on Christmas since 1999, including last season's one-sided loss to James' Cleveland Cavaliers.
At least this year the Lakers didn't hand out giveaway foam hands, dozens of which were thrown onto the court late in last year's game.
Players on both teams broke out festive holiday sneakers for the occasion, including lime-green Nike kicks on Bryant, Gasol and Odom. James and Bosh wore holiday-red shoes with garish green laces.
Wade missed the Heat's win in Phoenix on Thursday night to rest his sore knee, and he wasn't yet 100 percent at Staples. He acknowledged the injury increased his fatigue, which seemed obvious in two missed dunks in the first half.
Yet Miami thrived with defense, holding both Bryant and Gasol without a field goal in the first quarter. The Heat pushed the lead to double digits early in the second quarter.
James got his T shortly afterward for shoving Artest under the basket with 10 seconds left in the first half after Artest nearly put James in a headlock while battling for rebounding position.
NOTES: The Lakers had won five straight home games against Miami, including last season's win on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer banked in over Wade's defense by Bryant, who called it the luckiest shot of his career. ... Artest dived into the Miami bench in the third quarter chasing his own turnover, nearly flattening Miami's Jamaal Magloire. ... Fans near courtside included Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, Larry David, Kanye West, will.i.am, Gabrielle Union, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Piven, Christian Slater and Lionel Richie.