Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It is March 4, 2012 and the (22-14) Los Angeles Lakers face the (28-7) Miami Heat who holds the third-best record in the NBA. The Lakers and Heat will be promoting Hispanic Heritage this month and will don their Sunday white ‘Los Lakers’ jerseys while the Miami dons their black ‘El Heat’ road jerseys.

This afternoon’s highly anticipated re-match is a game that the Lakers have been looking forward to playing after putting up no resistance in Miami and falling 98-87 to the Heat 1/19/12 on playing without Dwayne Wade. There is a strong possibility that Chris Bosh will miss today’s game.

The expectation of this being much more than just a regular season game increased the moment Dwayne Wade gave Kobe Bryant an egregious foul in the 61st annual NBA All-Star exhibition game. In the aftermath, everyone has said the right thing, Dwayne Wade has apologized, and Kobe Bryant stated that he did not feel that the foul was intentional.

Everyone has asked the question, will the Lakers retaliate? No one will publicly advocate retaliation, but it is not out of the ordinary for someone to come off the bench and send the message that the Lakers will not allow their star player to be beat up. However, there is no doubt that the incident will provide some extra motivation for the Lakers. Today’s game will be a match up of the leagues best shooting guards.

The Lakers trail the current two-game season series (0-1) against the Heat. The Heat swept last year’s season series, the Lakers have lost four straight to the Heat. The Lakers are 5-5 overall in their last 10-games against the Heat. The Lakers are 7-2 in their last nine home games and are 8-4 against the Heat all-time at the Staples Center.

In 28 games including 24 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 24.5 points per game. The Miami Heat has played well this year appearing to be the team some anticipated last year’s version would look like. The Lakers are 6-7 against the Eastern Conference this season. Today’s game is a huge challenge that the Lakers will be motivated to play.

The question is will the Lakers defense be a factor in outcome of today’s game?

The last time these teams met, the Lakers held a two-point lead with the score 10-8 midway through the first quarter, prior to the Heat going on a 10-0 run to take a 18-10 that they would not surrender. The Lakers team that will take the floor at the Staples Center this afternoon is a different team than the one the Heat beat in January.

The Lakers have improved their ball movement, are doing a better job of moving bodies, rebounding, knocking down shots and receiving a more consistent contribution from their reserves. L.A. has to communicate of defense, stop the dribble penetration of LeBron James and the guards. It is imperative that the Lakers do a solid job of defending the pick-and-roll play, get back in transition, control the tempo, control the boards, limit the Heat’s second-chance points and quickly rotate out to open shooters.

The Lakers are the league’s best rebounding team, however the purple and gold rank 14th in offensive rebounds. The Miami Heat are the leagues best in the defensive rebounding category. The Lakers will need their big three of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to score 65+ points. The Lakers need to have four or more players score in double digits overall and their reserves to score 35+ points. The Lakers will need everyone wearing a ‘Los Lakers’ jersey to play solid defensively, step up their game and increase their scoring.

Starters
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Barnes, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Heat: M. Chalmers, D. Wade, L. James, C. Bosh, J. Anthony   

Tip-off: 12:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: ABC
  • Miami: ABC

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Miami: 940 AM WINZ (Mike Inglis & John Crotty)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Kobe  Bryant (Nasal Fracture) Probable
  • Steve Blake (Costochaondral Fracture) Probable

Heat:

  • Chris Bosh (Personal) Probable
  • LeBron James (Mildly Hurt Right Wrist) Probable