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The Los Angeles Lakers were beaten 96-80 by the Miami Heat on Christmas Day in front of a packed house at the Staples Center. The revamped Miami Heat crushed the reigning champions with a truly magnificent performance.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh marched up and down the floor and scored at will against the lethargic Lakers. There is no dressing up what happened in this one sided affair. The Lakers simply did not show up for one of the most important fixtures in the NBA schedule.

This humiliating defeat has left many people questioning the attitude of this superstar rotation. For the past decade this team has risen to the occasion when they needed to, and have six championships to prove it.

These days things are very different in Tinseltown. Team leader Kobe Bryant is in his 15th year in the league along with fellow guard Derek Fisher. Forward Ron Artest is in his 12th season as is Lamar Odum. This is not a young team anymore and they are showing signs of a little wear and tear.

Last season the Lakers won the Pacific Division and clinched the top seed in the Western Conference with a record of 57-25. They went on to win their 16th championship after defeating the Boston Celtics 4-3 in an epic series.
This season the Western Conference looks a lot more competitive with San Antonio and Dallas looking like legitimate championship threats .

The Spurs are leading the Conference with a record of 26-4 and the Mavericks are in second place with a record of 23-5. The Lakers are five games behind San Antonio with a record of 21-9.
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson has downplayed the Christmas meltdown against Miami. He remains confident his team will win a third consecutive NBA title next year.

There is no doubt that the Lakers are still the team to beat in the west but they need to play with a lot more urgency and commitment to get the job done. I also think they need to strengthen their bench before the playoffs begin. Last year the Lakers had Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic who contributed valuable points when Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher were resting. Both players have since been traded to the New Jersey Nets.

It's never wise to take on the Lakers but they're vulnerable at the moment and are worth laying in the short term. In the early part of next month they host Memphis and Detroit before heading to Phoenix. It's well worth laying Los Angeles with the handicap in each of these fixtures. They have struggled to put away inferior teams in the past few weeks and there is every chance this trend will continue in to the new year.

By Nick Shiambouros

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