After a potential 2021 NBA Finals preview Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers continue their three-game homestand as Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat come to Staples Center seeking revenge after losing in the 2020 NBA Finals.
However, despite this being a highly anticipated rematch, the stakes aren’t as high as both teams will be without key contributors. For Los Angeles, both Dennis Schroder (health and safety protocols) and Anthony Davis (right calf strain) have been ruled out.
Schroder missed Thursday’s game against Brooklyn as he was scratched shortly before tipoff. Because of the ambiguity of health and safety protocols, head coach Frank Vogel is unsure when Schroder will be cleared.
“It’s still uncertain what his timeline is going to look like,” Vogel said. “For now all I can really tell you is that due to health and safety protocols he’s still out. He was not here at practice today and there is no timeline.”
The Lakers sorely missed Schroder’s speed and creativity offensively, as they were devoid of playmaking in theloss to Brooklyn.
Vogel will also need to devise a creative gameplan to ensure LeBron James receives help. Brooklyn held the Lakers to under 100 points, the fourth time this season Los Angeles has failed to eclipse triple-digit points.
Anyone not named James, Kyle Kuzma or Montrezl Harrell needs to step up. Despite the various setbacks Miami has suffered through injuries and health and safety protocols, they enter the contest allowing their opponents to score 110.5 points per game, good for seventh in the league.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has hit a slump the last seven games, shooting 34% from the field and 19% from 3-point range. Alex Caruso and Wesley Matthews are also in a rough patch; both players combined for just four points in 50 minutes of action Thursday.
That trio of guards will have a solid opportunity to bounce back and establish a rhythm. Miami will be without guards Goran Dragic (left ankle sprain) and Avery Bradley (right calf strain), so the perimeter won’t be as congested as Nunn and Robinson don’t hound guards in the same manner as their injured teammates.
The Lakers tend to run many off-ball actions for their guards to create openings, so look for James and Marc Gasol to exploit that when handling the ball.
Defensively, stymieing Miami’s triumvirate of Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will be a taxing task. Butler has logged three consecutive triple-doubles, despite a lower emphasis on 3-pointers.
Adebayo is averaging career-high figures in points and assists, and without Davis, he could cause significant problems on both ends. Herro isn’t torching teams from deep — his 3-point percentage has dropped to 34% after having a 39% clip last season — but he’s handling the ball more and is punishing teams as a passer or when attacking the basket.
Miami wants their revenge after falling 4-2 to Los Angeles in the NBA Finals, but if Los Angeles’ role players step up and produce, they have a strong chance to claim victory once again.
Lakers (22-8) vs. Heat (12-17)
5:30 p.m. PT, Feb. 19, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Talen Horten-Tucker, Markieff Morris
Projected Heat starting lineup:
PG: Kendrick Nunn
SG: Duncan Robinson
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Kelly Olynyk
C: Bam Adebayo
Key Reserves: Tyler Herro, Andre Iguodala, Precious Achiuwa, Gabe Vincent
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