Heat vs. Lakers: Win over Miami Shows L.A. Is Turning into a Contender

After defeating the Miami Heat on Sunday, the Lakers put the rest of the NBA on notice.

They are back as a team to watch for in the West.

Now, I'm not crazy. The Lakers are still behind Oklahoma City until they can beat them. They won't face San Antonio until next month when they meet three times in nine days.

But right now, they may be finally showing their potential after an up-and-down season so far.

What the Lakers proved against Miami was that they can still get up for a big game when something's at stake. The most impressive number wasn't Kobe Bryant's 20 points in the first half or his 33 overall—it was how they held Miami to 37.5 percent shooting from the field.

Metta World Peace turned back the clock with a stellar defensive effort on LeBron James. Lakers fans know this can't be expected all the time, but if World Peace digs within himself to find motivation like that, he'll be the wild card of the team.

It's true the Heat didn't have Chris Bosh in uniform Sunday, but what's also true is that the Lakers shut down Dwyane Wade, who was virtually a non-factor before fouling out. Despite their inconsistent offense, the Lakers' defense can be good enough to carry them in almost any game.

Andrew Bynum is settling more into his role as a double-double, defensive presence. And what more can you say about Kobe Bryant? Three games after breaking his nose in the All-Star Game, and he's scored more than 30 points in each game.

It's become impossible to find any more words to describe how well Bryant played this year, and Lakers fans—as well as NBA fans—had better start appreciating this run, because it continues to reveal just how unique Bryant is in this era or any era for that matter.

Sunday was also a clear reminder that teams will have a hard team beating the Lakers at home (17-2 record). That's a good sign since the Lakers have home...

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