Merry Christmas, Lakers Nation!
Once again, it’s on! Another Christmas Day game in Downtown Los Angeles. The (21-8) Los Angeles Lakers are at Staples Center to host the (21-9) Miami Heat. This is the most anticipated game of the year, to some, in the NBA.
The Lakers aren’t caught up in the hype; it’s a big game for them because it’s the ‘next’ game, an opportunity to bounce back from a disappointing loss. This is a great time to face one of the association’s hottest teams.
For the Lakers it’s all about playing solid defense, energy and execution on offense. However, everything I’ve read tells me that this is an early match-up of playoff teams. The Socratic irony is that neither has performed well against elite teams.
The Heat are (5-7) against opponents above .500. Coincidentally, the Lakers are (2-3) against opponents above .500 and winners of eight of their last ten games. Despite that fact, there are some Laker fans who have already chalked this game up as a loss. It is well documented that Kobe and the Lakers are 5-6 in Christmas Day Extravaganzas.
There is a lot a hype and story-lines surrounding this game. The fact of the matter is, that upon completion of this game neither team will be crowned the NBA Champion.
After a successful seven-game road trip, the Lakers returned home for the holidays and their high-profile duel against the latest team, the media, has deemed a rival for the Lakers.
Make no mistake, Lakers vs. Heat isn’t a rivalry. I’ll buy an argument stating that this was an important game the moment the schedule was released; it is a game that can be used as a measuring stick for both teams, but a rivalry — no.
The Lakers are fresh off of a 19-point loss to a short-handed Bucks team. Tuesday’s debacle was the worst loss since game six of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Celtics. This should provide them a much-needed renewed focus.
Offensively, they need to start the offense from the inside and establish Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the post.
The Miami Heat are a solid defensive team allowing the fewest points in the association. However, they give up a decent amount of size and skill to Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom. I also want to see Kobe take Dwyane Wade in the post. The Heat will crowd the painted area; the Lakers front line needs to play big and establish their dominance.
The Lakers could increase the tempo, but not necessarily get out on the break. It appears that the Heat want to play in half-court sets and react. If the Lakers on occasion increase the tempo the team could garner more possessions and force the Heat to adjust. Besides if necessary, the Lakers can be successful executing a half-court offense. They have to avoid having another slow start in the second half.
The Lakers need to execute their offense, using proper spacing, excellent ball movement and excellent player movement to find high percentage shots attacking the basket.
Defensively, they have to do a solid job of defending the screen and roll play, get back in transition, stop the ball, close down the painted area, and rotate out to open shooters and rebound. Kobe and Ron Artest will have to box out and help clear the boards.
The Miami Heat employs two of the leagues best penetrators on the wing in Wade and James; both excel at attacking the basket. The Lakers need to pack the paint and induce them into shooting the mid-range jumper.
Don’t be surprised to see the Lakers break out a zone to help contain the Heat on the perimeter. The x-factor for the Heat could be sharpshooter Mike Miller. The way to avoid any problems is to challenge every shot and not leave anyone to take an uncontested shot. Limit the Heat to one shot per possession.
The Lakers reserves need to make an impact on this game. The Killer ‘B’s’ scored 57 points and grabbed 24 boards in Toronto and today would be a great day for a repeat performance. The additions have benefited the Purple and Gold mightily this season and today will be no different. They will be motivated and ready for this game.
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, R. Artest, L. Odom and P. Gasol
Heat: C. Arroyo, D. Wade, L. James, C. Bosh, Z. Ilgauskas
Tip-off: 2:00 PM PST
- Los Angeles: FS West (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
- Miami: Sun Sports (Eric Reid & Toni Fiorentino)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Miami: 940 AM WINZ (Mike Inglis & John Crotty)
- Theo Ratliff ( Left Knee) Out
- Andrew Bynum (Right Knee soreness) Probable
- Kobe Bryant (Sprained Pinkie Finger, Right Hand) will play
- Dwayne Wade (Left Knee Soreness) will play