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The Lakers head into Thursday as the league’s hottest team, winners of eight straight.

But even the champs have had their issues at times this season, mild ones anyway, with a four-game slide and a pair of three-game losing streaks on their resume.

That last three-game slump ended with the embarrassing pre-All-Star-break loss in Cleveland. The Lakers haven’t lost since, with five of their eight victories since the break ended coming by double digits.

“The difference between us is that we all know what our roles are,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “They’re still trying to figure that out.”

Clearly, that’s the case. Bibby was added essentially in place of Carlos Arroyo at point guard. James Jones, Eddie House and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have largely fallen out of the rotation at times, and Miami’s bench is struggling _ getting outscored 41-8 by the Trail Blazers and a stunning 149-51 in the last four games.

“One thing for sure about this team, we won’t go down without a fight,” Ilgauskas said. “And we’ll keep on fighting.”

Even Jackson doesn’t doubt that one.

“We always say, the close games that you lose, the ones that are really dramatic like that, they’ll make up for somewhere along the line,” Jackson said. “Somewhere along the line, they might do that. They might be in the playoffs.”

And that was about as close Jackson came to tweaking the Heat all day.