Dennis Schröder, Lakers’ supporting cast edge Heat

LOS ANGELES — Thomas Bryant lowering his shoulder along the baseline then leaping for a dunk. Dennis Schröder patiently setting his feet then knocking down a 3-pointer. Russell Westbrook crossing over a defender and finishing with a baseline layup.

Throughout the season, these plays have been satellites – moments simply orbiting LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who are at the center of everything the Lakers do. But what are the Lakers without their two biggest stars? What do those sequences mean in a vacuum?

On Wednesday night, they added up to enough to win, to just about everyone’s surprise.

Taking the court without their three leading scorers (including Lonnie Walker IV), the Lakers (17-21) managed to hold on against an onslaught of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, beating the visiting Miami Heat 112-109, the team’s third straight victory and fourth in its past five games.

The Lakers had to fight until the end in a final minute filled with drama: They got a four-point advantage on a right-handed layup out of isolation for Schröder, who had 14 of his season-best 32 points in the fourth quarter to lead the motley crew without James or Davis. Adebayo, who had 30 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat, scored on the ensuing possession, cutting the margin to two points with 15 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Miami had to foul. But instead of passing to Schröder, who made 12 of his 14 free throws and darted to the backcourt, Austin Reaves snapped a pass to a cutting Westbrook, who finished at the rim and was fouled. He missed the free throw and Miami’s Max Strus made a subsequent 3-pointer with four seconds left, but Westbrook’s basket held as the edge after Schröder added a pair of three throws and Butler missed the Heat’s final heave from deep.

Even without just Davis, the Lakers have been struggling night to night. Without James as well, very little was expected of this oft-maligned group, who James last week implied wasn’t good enough to compete at the level he wants.

A win against the Heat is likely to change the reputation of the group – and certainly not the direction of this so far disappointing season – but it provided the slightest validation for the supporting cast that held its own.

Westbrook’s 21 points led a bench that outscored their Miami counterparts 42-24. Bryant’s 21 points and nine rebounds helped the Lakers compete with Adebayo’s inside attack and Butler, who added 27 points.

There were added challenges: The injury bug bit the Lakers again after the tip-off.

Early in the second half, the team announced Troy Brown Jr. (two points, four rebounds) wouldn’t return after playing just 13 minutes before succumbing to a left quadriceps strain. In the fourth quarter, Schröder took a bad step and rolled his right ankle hard, falling to the ground and shouting in pain. But after a timeout, the guard came back on the court and sank a pair of free throws – he made a go-ahead corner 3-pointer moments later.

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Nothing quite matched the Lakers’ start, bursting to an early lead toward the end of the first quarter thanks much in part to the up-tempo pace of Schröder and Westbrook. In particular, Westbrook (nine assists, eight rebounds) hit four of his first seven attempts, including two 3-pointers, looking a little more like the 2017 MVP he now only flashes in spurts.

To go with the theme of the unexpected: Wenyen Gabriel hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first quarter, giving the Lakers a nine-point lead.

The Lakers have had success in second meetings with Eastern Conference teams they’ve seen recently, beating both Charlotte and Miami this week after losing meetings in December. They’ll have a third shot against an Eastern foe they beat last week, taking on Atlanta on Friday.

More to come on this story.

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