MIAMI — In terms of holiday bashes, this was definitely a dud for the Lakers.
They entered the most important seven-day stretch of their schedule so far and couldn't even get to the appetizers (road games at Orlando and New Orleans) much less the main dish (Christmas Day against Boston) without losing to the ho-hum Miami Heat.
Kobe Bryant's 12-footer looked as if it would fall through and force overtime, but it rimmed around the cylinder and out as time expired, taking the Lakers' chances with it in an 89-87 loss Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Lakers (21-4) have lost three of their last five road games, which would be a problem even if they didn't have three road games in the next four nights.
Forget the Boston showdown for now. The Lakers couldn't even beat a team that had lost three straight games, all of them one-sided, to Milwaukee, Memphis and Atlanta.
Miami improved to 13-12.
The word of the night was energy, as in how much of it was lacking as the visitors missed nine of 19 free throws, committed 21 turnovers and crawled to their lowest point total this season.
"We didn't play with the energy we needed to," said Andrew Bynum, who had four points and six rebounds in another foul-marred effort.
Lamar Odom, who had three points and five fouls, said the team needed to "pick up our energy at both ends of the court."
Pau Gasol was back after a one-game absence because of strep throat and lacked his usual vitality, finishing with 13 points and missing three of six free-throw attempts.
He was indicative of the team as a whole.
The game had a little bit of everything -- a shootout between two of the NBA's top players, shoddy performances at the free-throw line, and a rare, late technical foul on Lakers Coach Phil Jackson.
Bryant had 28 points, but was outdone by Dwyane Wade, who had 35. Still, Bryant had a chance to extend the game an extra five minutes and couldn't quite connect.
"It felt good," Bryant said. "It had a little rattling action and I thought it was going to fall. It just didn't happen."
Said Jackson: "It's what we wanted. It just didn't go in."
How close was it?
"If you can get half a point for a bucket, he would have gotten half a point," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said.
The Lakers' 10-for-19 free-throw shooting included four crucial misses in the final 3:07 (two by Odom, one each by Gasol and Derek Fisher).
Jackson, for his part, wasn't immune to the referees.
He was hit with a technical after being warned by Scott Foster for leaving the bench and inadvertently blocking an imminent inbounds pass by Miami's Shawn Marion in front of the Lakers' bench with 1:46 to play. (Haslem missed the free throw.)
"There was no reason for the technical," Jackson said. "I went back to my spot on the bench and he got irritated with it. Those things happen and I just didn't think it was a well-refereed game tonight."
The score was 46-46 at halftime, with neither team distinguishing itself.
Bynum stood out only because he had no points and no shots in the first half. He did, however, have three fouls and two turnovers.
"We were looking for him and he was there at the wrong time," Jackson said. "It just felt like he wasn't involved."
It won't get any easier for Bynum tonight. His assignment will be Orlando center Dwight Howard, who leads the league in rebounds (14.1 a game) and blocked shots (3.8 a game) and does pretty well in the scoring column too (20.8 points a game).
The Lakers were in trouble when the Heat took control in the third quarter. Then they were really in trouble when Wade hit a 33-foot three-pointer to end the period. The surprising score at that point: 75-63, Miami.
The Heat scored only five points the first eight minutes of the fourth, but the Lakers were only marginally better.
In the end, they were two points worse than the Heat.
"They seemed to have control of the game throughout," Bryant said. "We still had an opportunity to win the game, but it just didn't happen for us."
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With the best records in the Western and Eastern conferences, the Lakers and Boston have busy schedules leading to their Christmas Day game at Staples Center:
*--* LAKERS (21-4) Friday: Miami 89, Lakers 87 Today at Orlando Monday at Memphis Tuesday at New Orleans CELTICS (25-2) Fri.: Boston 126, Chicago 108 Sunday New York Tuesday Philadelphia *--*
Time: 4 PST.
On the air: TV: Ch. 9; Radio: 570, 1330.
Where: Amway Arena.
Records: Lakers 21-4, Magic 20-6.
Record vs. Magic (2007-08): 1-1.
Update: Orlando has won seven of its last eight games and continues to stay within striking distance of Boston and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Center Dwight Howard returned from a two-game absence because of a sore knee and had 14 points and 13 rebounds in Orlando's 90-78 victory Thursday over San Antonio. The Lakers have won their last three games in Orlando.
-- Mike Bresnahan
Clippers make it
four out of five
Randolph has 34 points and 16 rebounds in a 117-109 double-overtime win at Indiana. PAGE 6