Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade had 23 points apiece, and James added 19 points in the Heat’s sixth consecutive win. Bosh grabbed 11 rebounds and Ray Allen made four 3-pointers for 12 points, helping Miami improve to 5-0 against the Lakers on the holiday.
“I knew we would get a good game out of them, and I think the NBA wanted a good game,” James said, noting blowout results of the first two games on the league’s holiday schedule.
Bryant was relegated to the sideline with his fractured left knee, leaving him 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.
Streaky reserve Nick Young scored 20 points for the Lakers, who tied the game four times in the fourth quarter. Jodie Meeks added 17 points, Xavier Henry had 14 and Pau Gasol added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Bosh scored 13 of his 23 points in the first half, when Miami trailed 27-21 after the first quarter.
“I just made an effort to get to the basket a little more,” he said. “We just kept wearing on them offensively.”
The Lakers played a competitive game against the Heat despite their poor shooting and the absence of Bryant,Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) and Steve Blake (right elbow). They led by 10 points at one juncture and never trailed by more than that.
“I thought we attacked them the way we wanted to,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We can step it up a bit and be a little bit tougher, especially on the boards and places like that. ... but the effort is good.”
Young’s basket tied the game for the last time at 83-all. The Heat promptly took off on a 13-5 run. Wade, Norris Cole and James scored all of the Heat’s points.
Young answered with his fourth 3-pointer of the game and Meeks made 1 of 2 free throws to pull the Lakers to 96-92 with 1:26 to play. But Wade had an acrobatic reverse layup and James made two foul shots to give Miami some breathing room.
Young scored 12 points in the third, when the Lakers trailed by nine before scoring the final seven points of the period, capped by Young’s 3-pointer, to trail 76-74 heading into the fourth.
Allen and Wade combined to score the Heat’s first 13 points of the second, with Allen hitting 3-pointers to bookend the run and pull the Heat into a 34-all tie.
Bosh took over and scored 10 points in a row, including a layup that gave Miami just its second lead of the game, 40-39. James interrupted Bosh’s offensive spurt with a one-handed dunk off Wade’s fast-break alley oop.
“Any time Dwyane gets on the break I try to chase him down,” James said. “I didn’t know what he was going to do. The only way I can catch it is with my left (hand). I just tried to improvise. I got to see it again.”