Two of the NBA's top superstars collide once again Sunday in south Florida, where LeBron James and the Miami Heat will entertain Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat got the best of the Lakers in the first matchup, a 99-90 victory by the defending champions at Staples Center on Jan. 17. James had 39 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while Bryant led L.A. with 22 points. The Heat have won five of the last six in this series, and are unbeaten in the past four at home against the Lakers.
Los Angeles has lost 10 of 15 and 13 of the last 19 at Miami.
Miami has won four in a row overall and nine of its last 11 games, including Friday's 111-89 beatdown of the Clippers. The Clippers welcomed back four vital pieces to their puzzle: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups, but it wasn't enough to slow down the Heat.
James, the league's reigning MVP, scored 30 points in just under 31 minutes of action and Dwyane Wade ended with 20 points. Mario Chalmers netted 18 points and made five 3-pointers for the Heat, who are 3-0 on a five-game homestand and unbeaten in the last six games at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami, which shot 52.9 percent and made 15-of-27 from downtown, is a sizzling 21-3 as the host.
"Every year it seems like he does the amazing," said Wade of James, who made 9-of-11 shots and 4-of-5 3-pointers. "He is on a streak right now that is awesome and I love it. We would love for him to continue to do that, but one day he is going to shoot just 50 percent. We will take it."
The Heat will close out the homestand Tuesday versus Portland.
On the injury front for the Heat, guard Ray Allen (flu) and center Chris Bosh (flu) are both questionable Sunday.
Meanwhile, Bryant said the Lakers need to play with urgency and they are coming off Friday's 100-93 win at Charlotte. The Lakers trailed by a 30-20 score after the first quarter and 53-41 at halftime, before rallying in the final two periods for their seventh win in nine tries.
Bryant scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and also added eight assists and seven rebounds.
"In the second half I got in positions where I could catch and in turn shoot a little bit," Bryant said. "They became a little reluctant to double-team because starting knocking down some shots. I think that makes the game a lot easier."
Earl Clark chipped in 17 points and 10 boards, while Dwight Howard came through with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, which is 4-2 on a seven-game Grammy road trip. Clark's minutes have increased the past month with both Howard and Pau Gasol nursing injuries. He has posted five double- doubles in his last seven games.
L.A. is 9-17 as the visitor and will return to Staples Center for a four-game homestand versus the Suns, Clippers, Celtics and Trail Blazers.