If there was any bad blood between Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade it never spilled over during last Sunday afternoon’s clash between the Miami Heat and Lakers at the Staples Center.
It easily could have after Wade broke Bryant’s nose the previous weekend at the NBA All-Star game in Orlando.
Instead, Bryant forgave Wade for the accidental shot, but paid him back in full by dropping a game-best 33 points as the Lakers’ cruised to a 93-83 victory.
If Bryant is slowing down at age 33, it’s not apparent. If anything, Bryant, who leads the league in scoring at just under 29 points, is making every effort to push the Lakers to a record-tying 17th banner.
“We pounded the ball inside,’’ said Bryant, who added three rebounds. “We kept them out of transition. We wanted to play good basketball.”
That’s been the Lakers’ mantra during a four-year stretch in which they’ve been to the Finals three times with two titles.
Center Andrew Bynum finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers (23-14), while power forward Pau Gasol chimed in with 11 points, 10 boards, and one block.
“He’s playing with a physicality,’’ said Bryant of Bynum, who collected four blocks and two assists.
The Lakers have won eight of 10, and were aided by small forward Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), who tallied 17 points with seven rebounds and four steals.
Bryant started out by making his first five shots from the field, and had 18 first-quarter points as the Lakers rushed to a 28-22 lead.
Rookie point guard Andrew Goudelock’s three-pointer with nine minutes left in the second quarter gave the Lakers a 36-25 cushion.
World Peace’s hoop with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter made it 50-34, but the Heat closed the gap to 50-38 at the half.
The Lakers’ bench scored 12 points, with Goudelock getting seven points as he made two three-pointers.
Bryant had 20 points at the intermission after hitting eight of 11 shots from the floor. Miami small forward LeBron James (25 points with 13 rebounds and seven assists) had 12 points, and shooting guard Wade (16 points and five assists), who fouled out with 5:14 left in the fourth quarter when the Heat trailed by seven points, chipped in with eight.
Miami (28-9) owns the second-best mark in the Eastern Conference behind the Chicago Bulls (31-8), and was coming off a one-point loss at Utah. All day, the Heat struggled from the floor making 33 of 88 shots (37.5 percent).
Miami power forward Shane Battier (seven points and four assists) nailed a three-pointer with 7:42 left in the third quarter that cut the Lakers’ advantage to 56-49.
The Heat outscored the Lakers 9-7 after World Peace canned a trey with 3:42 left.
After three quarters, the Lakers (35 of 71 for 49.3 percent) held a 71-62 lead, but Bryant, a shooting guard, managed only four points.
Early in the fourth quarter, reserve point guard Steve Blake found Bynum for a stuff to make it an 11-point lead.
Bryant scored nine points in the fourth quarter, and iced the decision with a hoop for an 85-75 lead as 2:28 remained in the quarter.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.