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Jones Turns Up Heat Vs. Lakers

Kobe Bryant says the Los Angeles Lakers aren't presently in the proper physical condition to play the kind of defense they should be playing.

In Ron Harper's opinion, the defending NBA champions just aren't very good right now.

Eddie Jones had 26 points and eight rebounds against his former team, and Anthony Mason scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half as the Miami Heat beat the Lakers 103-92 on Sunday.

Miami entered the game ranked 27th in the NBA in offense, averaging 87.4 points. The Lakers, sixth in defense en route to their first championship in 12 years last June, are 25th this season, and took a step backward against the Heat.

Bryant believes conditioning is the problem.

"Miami is a team that's in shape, they kept coming at us in waves," said Bryant, who had 34 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:04 to play and the outcome decided. "We have to stop people, you have to stop people to win championships and ballgames.

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  • "We run out of gas, that's what our problem is. We need to get in shape. It's hard because we have so many old bodies. I think it's a matter of conditioning, I really do. I don't see any reason we can't play defense for 48 minutes, we did last year.

    "I'm sure (Lakers coach) Phil (Jackson) is going to find the right way to get us in condition."

    Shaquille O'Neal had 31 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who played without startig forward Horace Grant, sidelined due to back spasms.

    Tim Hardaway had 22 points and eight assists and Brian Grant added 14 points for the Heat, who entered the game last in the NBA in rebounding but won the battle of the boards 44-39.

    "We stink. If this team comes out to score 100 points on us, we've got to stink," Harper said. "They came out early, hit shots, and their guys played harder. They deserved to win the game."

    Two free throws by Grant and a 3-pointer by Dan Majerle - his first points of the game - gave Miami an 86-78 lead with six minutes remaining.

    The Lakers got within four points twice, but Grant responded each time with jumpers from just outside the foul line, the second making it 90-84. Mason then scored Miami's next six points to make it 96-86 with 1:44 to go.

    "This feels damn good," said Jones, traded by the Lakers to Charlotte in the Glen Rice deal nearly two years ago and playing his first season for the Heat. "I think we just wanted it a little more. We knew what we had in front of us, we had to play as hard as possible to win today, and that's what we did."

    Miami coach Pat Riley said his team wanted to prove something to itself in the wake of an 85-74 loss at Portland on Thursday night.

    "We came committed as a team," he said. "The Lakers are tough to beat here. It was just a great win for us. We had all four of our great players and the guys we depend upon play well."

    Riley was referring to Jones, Mason, Hardaway and Grant.

    Mason, who also had seven rebounds and six assists, scored five straight points to give Miami a 68-63 lead midway through the third quarter, and after the Lakers drew within one point, 3-pointers by Hardaway and Jones and a layup by Mason gave the Heat a 76-71 lead entering the fourth period.

    Jackson pointed to Mason as the key player in the game.

    "We had a problem (with him)," the Lakers coach said. "Offensively, we went really stale in the second half after shooting very well in the first half. They scored on every possession at one point in the critical part of the game."

    The Heat, who have won 12 of their last 16 games, scored 10 straight points for a 16-8 lead just four minutes into the game. Hardaway was 4-for-4 at that stage, including a pair of 3-point shots.

    It was 30-19 before the Lakers went on a 23-5 run for a 42-35 lead. However, the Heat outscored the Lakers 19-9 to finish the second quarter to take a 54-51 lead, and they were on top the rest of the way.

    Notes

  • Horace Grant also missed a game at Phoenix on Dec. 27 because of back problems. There was no immediate word on how long he might be sidelined.
  • Rookie Mark Madsen, who started in Grant's place, had no points, two rebounds and five fouls in 15 minutes.
  • The Heat brought a distinct Lakers flavor to Los Angeles. Riley played for the Lakers before coaching them for nearly nine seasons in the 1980s, and guided them to four championships. Jones, A.C. Green and Cedric Ceballos are also former Lakers.
  • Green, a starter for the Lakers last season, was honored for being a part of last year's championship team in a brief ceremony before playing in his NBA-record 1,153rd consecutive game. He had four points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.
  • The Lakers had only 11 assists, half as many as the Heat.

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