MIAMI — It was forward Chris Bosh to the rescue.
With guard Dwyane Wade out with knee soreness for the fourth straight game and forward LeBron James not quite as efficient as usual, Bosh — the most-criticized member of the Miami Heat’s Big Three — had a huge night.
Bosh made 15 of 22 shots, including eight straight in the second half, to lead the Heat to a 109-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
As a team, the Heat shot 71.4 percent in the fourth quarter, holding off the Lakers, who pulled to within four points with 2:41 remaining in the game. Bosh and James combined to score the Heat’s final eight points.
The Heat (31-12) now trail the Indiana Pacers by three games in the battle for the top record in the Eastern Conference.
For Bosh, it was his highest-scoring game since he had 37 on Dec. 28. During that span, he had two games in which he scored less than 10 points, and it is that inconsistency that frustrates some Heat fans — although not coach Erik Spoelstra.
“We’re not a your-turn play-call team,” Spoelstra said. “Chris has been critical to our execution since we put this team together because he has the great understanding of balance of when to be aggressive and when to facilitate.
“He has a great temperament. It’s not about one game if he only gets 10 points that he complains he didn’t get his touches. He’s not about that.”
Lakers guard Nick Young, who scored nine points off the bench, said it was a vintage performance.
“It seemed like the old Bosh,” Young said. “We had hands up, but he was making tough shots.”
James wasn’t bad, either, making 9 of 15 shots for 27 points while adding 13 rebounds and six assists. But James also had a game-high five turnovers and was only 7 of 13 from the foul line.
As a team, the Heat made just 11 of 23 free throws and turned the ball over 18 times.
That, to some extent, negated the Heat’s routinely brilliant shooting — 57.7 percent — and a better-than-normal rebounding effort in which Miami beat the Lakers on the boards 48-35.
“A win in this league is hard to come by,” James said. “Nick Young made a tough shot that rattled around the rim. Jodie Meeks made a pull-up at the end of the shot clock. We can live with those shots.
“We played hard and won the game, and that’s all that matters.”
The Lakers (16-27), who lost 14 of their past 17 games, were led by center Pau Gasol, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and guard Jodie Meeks, who added 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Guard Kendall Marshall added 11 assists and just three turnovers.
Wade wasn’t the only star who missed the game. The Lakers were again without guards Kobe Bryant, who has been out since Dec. 17 due to left-knee surgery; and Steve Nash, who has a foot injury and has been unable to play since Nov. 10.
James, Wade and Bryant were named All-Star starters on Thursday.
Also Thursday, James, a three-time Olympian, was named to the pool of 28 players from which the 2016 USA Olympic team will be chosen. No other Heat or Lakers players were on the list, including two-time Olympian Wade, 2008 Olympic Bosh or two-time Olympian Bryant.
The Heat on Thursday improved their record without Wade to 7-6.
Miami, which shot 50 percent or better in every quarter, never trailed. They led 30-27 after the first quarter and 57-46 at halftime. Of their 25 first-half field goals, 17 were layups or dunks.
The Heat led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter and took an 85-75 advantage in the fourth.
Los Angeles challenged in the fourth quarter but couldn’t stop the Heat, especially Bosh and James.
“We hit some big shots down the stretch, but they hit some bigger shots,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We will find a way to score. That’s not our problem. Our problem is defense.”
NOTES: Four Heat players — SG Dwyane Wade and F LeBron James, F Shane Battier and F James Jones — were at the University of Miami on Wednesday night when Duke defeated the Hurricanes. Battier is a former Duke player and Jones went to Miami. … Lakers SG Kobe Bryant and F Ryan Kelly, who played for Duke last season, were also at the game. … Lakers PG Steve Blake, who is out two more weeks with an elbow injury, played his high school ball locally at Miami High, where he won a 1998 state title with Heat F Udonis Haslem. … Lakers PG Jordan Farmar (hamstring) is also out for two more weeks. … The Lakers end their seven-game road trip with stops on Friday at Orlando and on Sunday against the New York Knicks. … The Heat play the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday and end their four-game homestand on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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