Any time LeBron James has been off the floor, the Los Angeles Lakers have largely struggled to be competitive which has led to some disappointing losses.
With that in mind, there wasn’t much optimism for the Lakers against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night after it was announced that James would miss the game due to a cold. However, the team proved everyone wrong as several players stepped up in the King’s absence to earn a scrappy win against a Heat team that blew them out recently.
The night belonged to Dennis Schroder, who constantly blew past his defenders to get to the rim and score or draw free throws. Schroder gutted through several injuries, getting whacked in the face in the first half and later spraining his ankle in the fourth quarter. The ankle sprain looked like it might knock him out of the game, but instead he stayed in and proceeded to lift the Lakers down the stretch.
The point guard wound up setting a new season-high in points with 32 and did so in an efficient manner as he shot 8-of-15 from the field and 12-of-14 from the free throw line. He was also great defensively, adding in four steals.
With both his co-stars missing, Russell Westbrook filled in all over the place off the bench. Like Schroder, Westbrook took advantage of his speed and athleticism in the paint to score or set up his teammates.
Westbrook finished the night with a near triple-double, recording 21 points, nine assists and eight rebounds while also adding three steals. He came up huge in the clutch, finishing a laser of an inbounds pass from Austin Reaves to put Los Angeles up five and give them up enough breathing room to pull out a win.
Since Davis has been out, Thomas Bryant has been on a tear and that continued against the Heat as his activity in the painted area made a real difference. Bryant consistently found himself open underneath the rim for dunks and easy shots, as evidenced by his efficient 9-of-11 shooting from the field.
The big man narrowly missed out on another double-double, scoring 21 points of his own while pulling down nine rebounds.
What’s next for Lakers
The Lakers will look to continue their undefeated streak in 2023 when the Atlanta Hawks come to town on Friday. L.A. will then travel up north to take on the Sacramento Kings on second the end of a back-to-back on Saturday.
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