LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers finally got their first look at the revamped Miami Heat, and the champs might be a little bit disturbed by what they saw.
LeBron James had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists while hitting a season-high five three-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 a good bit of trash talk in the final minutes.
"We're not trying to make a statement to anyone," James said. "We're trying to show each other that we can play at a high level. We're happy because we got better today."
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 three-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 did not raise their games to meet the spotlight that follows Miami, falling well behind in the first half and never making a run.
"It's like these games mean more to our opponents than they do to us," Bryant said. "I think we need to get that straight - play with more focus, put more [emphasis] on these games. I don't like it. We know what we're capable of doing, and that's part of the problem."