LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant viewed playing the Miami Heat on Christmas Day as a measuring stick of how well his Achilles tendon was holding up. That was before he fractured his left knee.
Bryant's second major injury of the season kept him out of Wednesday's game, a 101-95 loss in which the Lakers were competitive until the final 8½ minutes.
Tied 83-all, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James took control for the Heat, who outscored the Lakers 20-12 to close out their sixth straight victory and improve to 5-0 against Los Angeles on the holiday.
"We're not better than we were last year, but it's only December," said James, who scored 19 points. "I believe we can be better than the team that won in June. This is a process. We don't want to play championship ball right now."
Chris Bosh and Wade led Miami with 23 points apiece. Bosh had 11 rebounds and Ray Allen made four 3-pointers for 12 points for the defending NBA champions.
"You have to make shots, you have to execute," James said. "We did a little bit of both."
The teams meet again in Miami on Jan. 23. Bryant isn't expected to play then either. He's out four to six weeks because of his knee.
Before his latest injury, Bryant missed nearly eight months while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. He played his first game on Dec. 8, then got hurt again on Dec. 17 at Memphis.
"It's just been slow in terms of laying off it and letting it heal," Bryant said before the game. "When you don't have activity, you got to watch the other parts like nutrition."
Typical of Bryant's attention to detail, he said he has been reading critical comments that suggest he won't return this season.
"It's the same old tune, just being sung a little more loudly now," he said. "These type of things just help me lock in more."
Asked if there's any chance he won't be back, Bryant replied, "Not that I'm aware of."
James said, "When he comes back he's going to play at a high level."
The injury left Bryant unable to extend his NBA record for Christmas Day appearances to 16.
"It's not as special when Kobe's not out there," said James, who shared a postgame hug with Bryant.
Streaky reserve Nick Young scored 20 points for the Lakers, who were tied four times in the fourth quarter. Jodie Meeks added 17 points, Xavier Henry had 14 and Pau Gasol added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
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