The Los Angeles Lakers have a multitude of reasons for excitement ahead of the Thursday showdown with the Miami Heat.
One, the clash will be the second, and last, replay of the 2020 NBA Finals this season. Two, L.A could avenge the 96-94 loss in the first meeting between the two sides, which took place at Staples Center in late February.
And three, the Lakers not only have Andre Drummond back in the starting lineup after a freaky toe injury cut his debut in the Purple and Gold short over a week ago. The latest roster addition Ben McLemore might also appear for the reigning NBA champions making his debut just two days after joining the team.
Both players have the tools to make an impact on Thursday night. The Heat are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA and average the lowest number of offensive boards (7.9 per game) in the league.
Drummond has made a name for himself cleaning the glass for the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers, registering 13.8 rebounds over his eight years in the NBA.
The game in Miami could be an ideal opportunity for the 27-year-old center to exert dominance in the paint, helping protect the rim for the Lakers in addition to earning some second-chance points.
The Heat also appear vulnerable on the perimeter, allowing opponents to make 14.6 threes per game, third-most in the NBA. That potentially opens the door for McLemore, a proven sharpshooter, to start his journey with L.A. on a high note.
The 28-year-old guard has been struggling from behind the 3-point line this season, shooting just 33.1% from deep. However, the volatile situation in Houston could factor in the decline as McLemore converted 40% or more of his attempted threes in the two previous campaigns.
Also, the Lakers have proved they can create plenty of open looks for their shooters, something that might help McLemore drain threes again. L.A. ended the last two victories with a 3-point percentage of 51.5%, against the Sacramento Kings, and 45% against the Toronto Raptors.
However, the game likely won’t be a high-scoring contest. The Lakers still carry the title of the NBA’s best team despite the absence of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, allowing opponents to rake in just 105.8 points per game, the second-lowest average in the league.
In this area, Miami is just two spots behind L.A. with 107.4 opponent’s points per game. The Heat also give up 38.7 field goals a night; only the New York Knicks do a better job at getting stops in the NBA this season.
The game might end up being a slugfest. Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to look forward to the showdown in Miami: to watch the Lakers, old and new, in action.
Or, for the nostalgia of the matchup, which can prompt fond memories of that Finals series just a few months ago.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they continue to be short-handed without their two stars. They’re also without young guard Talen Horton-Tucker in this one after he was handed a one-game suspension by the NBA for running onto the court during the altercation with the Toronto Raptors.
Kyle Kuzma is also missing the game due to a calf strain, so it will be up to some bench players to take on bigger roles in the absence of so many key pieces.
Lakers (32-19) vs. Heat (26-25)
4:30 p.m. PT, April 8, 2021
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Florida
TV: TNT, Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Wesley Matthews
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Ben McLemore
Projected Heat starting lineup:
PG: Duncan Robinson
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Trevor Ariza
C: Bam Adebayo
Key Reserves: Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Iguodala, Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro
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