LOS ANGELES (AP) — For a few exciting minutes in the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers resembled the championship-caliber dynamo everybody expected this season, making a big run and surging past the Miami Heat.
And then LeBron James calmly demonstrated why the Heat are the defending NBA champions and the Lakers are in 11th place in the Western Conference.
James had 39 points and eight assists, Dwyane Wade added 27 points on his 31st birthday and the Heat held off the Lakers 99-90 Thursday night, scoring the final nine points to finish their six-game road trip in style.
"We closed out the trip the right way, and we want to build from it," James said. "We wanted to do much better, of course, after the way we started, losing to Indiana and Portland."
They finished up just fine at Staples Center, getting their second win in their last eight games here against the Lakers.
Ray Allen scored seven of his nine points in the final 5 minutes as the Heat repelled a late charge by the Lakers, who lost for the seventh time in nine games. The Lakers challenged the champs, but James closed out the Heat's sixth road game in 10 days with a flurry of clutch baskets and solid defensive play, often against Bryant.
"I thought we played well enough to beat them," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's a championship team. They turned on all the juices, so it's a good measuring stick. That's what they do, and we have to get better. We've got to get smoother."
Bryant scored 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for Los Angeles, but later lamented his lack of aggression in the first three quarters. Dwight Howard had 13 points and 16 rebounds, but missed two key free throws with 1:51 left while Miami pulled away, capping the All-Star starting center's 5-for-13 effort at the line.
Miami held a narrow lead for most of the first three quarters until Bryant hit two 3-pointers and two jumpers during a 14-3 Lakers run to an 84-81 lead in the fourth quarter.
Allen put the Heat back ahead with a 3-pointer with 4:55 to play, but Bryant tied it with his third 3-pointer of the quarter with 2:33 left. After Wade hit a jumper, Howard missed two free throws — airballing the first — and Allen hit a high-arching jumper in the paint before James iced it with a short bank shot with 49 seconds left.
"On the road, when things don't always go your way, you don't have your momentum and you don't have the confidence of your home crowd, you have to just find different ways to grind," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "This is a perfect example of that. We never really got into a great flow offensively until late in the fourth quarter."