Lakers can’t catch up to Heat in turnover-filled loss

MIAMI — There were more than seven minutes left, and the Lakers had cut the Heat’s lead in half.

Only their leader was doubled over.

LeBron James paused for an extra second at the free-throw line after Coach Darvin Ham called a timeout, looking, for once, all of his nearly 38 years.

It felt like an omen on a night when James had to try to lead his team back from a 22-point deficit against one of the most physical and opportunistic teams in the NBA. The Lakers’ fourth-quarter fire did not come soon enough in a 112-98 loss to the Heat, well after their best player was already exhausted trying to keep up.

The game stood as a counterpoint to the Lakers’ victory one night earlier in Orlando, which Ham trumpeted as an example of how his team needed to share the load to win. The supporting cast eventually caught up with him, but far too late. The Lakers were outscored by a combined 16 points in the first and third quarters and never cut the deficit below seven points again.

After a 3-pointer from Dennis Schröder with four minutes left, the Lakers turned the ball over three times and missed five straight shots, allowing Tyler Herro (16 points) and Jimmy Butler (27 points) to close the door on them for a 12-point lead with 1:15 remaining.

James finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists, leading five other Lakers who scored in double figures. His 38th birthday is on Friday, and the Lakers have lost five of their last seven games without Anthony Davis. They’re mired in 13th place in the Western Conference and the season’s halfway mark is just around the corner.

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The Lakers could not overcome 26 collective turnovers – 20 more than their hosts, who were without point guard Kyle Lowry – which led to 31 Heat points. They also gave up 19 second-chance points, a whopping 13 of which were in the first quarter alone.

Despite being listed as questionable until 90 minutes before tip-off, James seemed ready to go even beforehand, wrapping his pregame warm-up session with a crowd-pleasing dunk. In his first five minutes, he scored 10 points including a pair of 3-pointers – entering the game, he had missed 15 consecutive road 3-point attempts.

But Butler – historically one of James’ best rivals – was up to the challenge, matching James’ early scoring effort. But once James subbed off with the score tied, the one-on-one battle quickly became beside the point when the Lakers were down by eight after the first quarter.

More to come on this story.

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