It used to be that when the Los Angeles Lakers came to town, the game was the story.

But that was when Kobe Bryant was ambulatory, when the Lakers still were contenders, when there was a coach in place who actually considered the defensive end of the court.

Now, a game such as Thursday night's 109-102 victory at AmericanAirlines is merely drudgery for the Miami Heat along the way to matters more significant, such as Sunday's visit by the San Antonio Spurs and then Wednesday's visit by the Oklahoma City Thunder, rematches of the last two NBA Finals.

So the Heat meandered and muddled, missing free throws (11 of 23), committing turnovers (18) and making the easy into something far less before holding on, similar to Tuesday's escape against the equally indistinguishable Boston Celtics.

"That was progress," coach Erik Spoelstra said of his team ultimately finding a way to win. "The game could have looked different, but there actually were some good things."

Instead, of a who's-who roster, the Lakers featured a who's-that lineup where anyone beyond center Pau Gasol largely was indistinguishable (Ryan Kelly? Kendall Marshall? Yes, they're Lakers starters). Gasol closed with 22 points and 11 rebounds.