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 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.
N.Y. Knicks 100, Chicago 95
NEW YORK — The New York Knicks slipped on green uniforms and looked like an entirely different team.
A little like the one that used to protect the paint at Madison Square Garden.
Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton each scored 20 points, and the Knicks limited the Chicago Bulls to two baskets in the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, pulling away for a 103-95 victory Saturday.
Swatting shots and picking off passes with a dominant defense that would have made the 1990s Knicks proud, New York didn't allow a field goal for more than 8 minutes after the game was tied early in the final period.
"We did a beautiful job defensively," Stoudemire said. "They're a really good defensive team, but for us, we've been talking about defense now for the past week about communicating, helping the helper, so it's really showing."
Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari added 15 apiece for the Knicks, the NBA's highest-scoring team but 28th in defense. Yet it's been hard to tell lately they struggle on that end, as they held Oklahoma City to 98 points on Wednesday and followed by blocking 10 shots and coming up with 12 steals in this one.
Stoudemire anchored the defensive effort, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking six shots. Rookie Landry Fields finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who improved to 21-25 on Christmas. Felton had 12 assists.
Wearing Christmas colors, the Knicks beat Chicago for the second time this season, winning the series for the first time since 2000-01.
"It's real important because we're chasing them. Hopefully we can do that," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "One thing is you know we play them three games. We won two so we get the tiebreaker, so now that helps."
Carlos Boozer had 26 points and 19 rebounds for the Bulls, who lost for just the second time in 11 games.
The Bulls flopped in their first Christmas game since 1997, committing 22 turnovers that led to 23 points. They fell to 9-6 on the holiday, including 2-3 against the Knicks.
"To their credit, I thought they played good defense," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think we have to execute when we are being doubled-teamed. We've got to make plays. We didn't do that tonight."
Back-to-back baskets by Ronnie Brewer and Rose tied it at 87 with 10:11 left before the Knicks, who were allowing 107 points per game, started playing the defense basketball that was once their trademark.
Chandler and Felton each had two baskets in a 10-0 run as Chicago missed 11 of its first 13 shots in the period. Chandler's bucket made it 97-87 before Boozer ended the Bulls' drought with 1:52 remaining.
"I didn't pay attention to (the drought), but I could tell our defense was doing great," Felton said. "We were getting turnovers, shots that they normally probably hit they weren't hitting. We were getting out on fast breaks, running the ball back at them. It's just fun basketball."