There will be no shortage of celebrities at Staples Center Thursday night, when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers entertain LeBron James and the Miami Heat in a star-studded affair.
The Heat need a win tonight in order to finish their six-game road trip with a .500 record and improved to 2-3 on the jaunt with Thursday's 92-75 victory against the Golden State Warriors. James became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points and led the way with a game-high 25 on 11-of-20 shooting. He also had 10 assists and seven rebounds.
"I try to give everything to the game of basketball and it continues to give back to me," said James, who also reached the 5,000-assist mark and is fifth in the NBA with 26.0 ppg. "It was great to be able to achieve those milestones alongside my teammates."
Dwyane Wade contributed 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Mario Chalmers added 15 points, Chris Bosh finished with 11 and Ray Allen added 10 for the Heat, who are 9-9 away from south Florida.
Miami forward Shane Battier returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury and posted two rebounds in 10 minutes.
The Heat, who sit sixth in the league with 102.1 ppg, will return home for two straight games, starting with next Wednesday's matchup with Toronto, and are 10 wins shy of 1,000 for the franchise.
Los Angeles seems to have righted the ship with back-to-back wins following a season-high six-game losing streak, and will put the finishing touches on a four-game homestand Thursday night.
The Lakers had a few days to rest following a 104-88 pummeling of the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. It was a coming out party for Dwight Howard, who registered 31 points and 16 rebounds.
"This could be an average night for him when he gets fitter and more comfortable with the system," Lakers guard Steve Nash said about Howard, who returned to action on Sunday after missing three games with a shoulder injury.
Kobe Bryant also scored 31 points and leads the NBA with 29.9 ppg. Bryant has scored 20-plus points in 22 straight games and reached the 30,000-point mark back in December. Tonight's matchup will be a tough one to miss with Bryant and James putting a combined 50,000-plus points to the forefront.
The win over Milwaukee was also Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's 400th in his career. Lakers starting forward Pau Gasol missed his fifth consecutive game with concussion symptoms and is questionable Thursday. Gasol is averaging 12.2 points and 8.4 rebounds this season.
Los Angeles could struggle inside against Bosh, James and Wade, but the recent play of Howard could make a difference. Howard has posted two straight double- double efforts since returning from injury and has achieved the feat in five of the last six games played.
L.A. is fourth in the league with 103.4 ppg and 12-9 at home. It will begin a three-game road trip Sunday against Toronto, followed by tilts against Chicago and Memphis.
The Lakers and Heat have split two meetings already this season, with each team winning on its home floor. Miami hasn't played well in Hollywood against the Lakers, losing six of seven and 14 of 18 there.