It looked like the Los Angeles Lakers may finally be getting their All-NBA big man back in the lineup, as Anthony Davis was listed as questionable and a game-time decision for their second and final meeting against the Miami Heat on Sunday.
Ultimately though, Davis is not able to go just yet as Frank Vogel ruled him out before the game.
L.A.’s early November win against the Heat in overtime remains one of their best individual wins of the season. With the Lakers falling on hard times, another win against the Heat could do wonders to help them get back on the right path.
While the Lakers are without Davis and Kendrick Nunn, the Heat also look to be extremely shorthanded. Kyle Lowry — Miami’s headlining offseason acquisition — continues a long absence due to personal reasons. He will be out, and Tyler Herro, Markieff Morris and KZ Okpala will be joining him.
PJ Tucker is questionable and, like Davis, could be a game-time decision on Sunday afternoon in Miami. But regardless of who is and isn’t in the lineup, the Lakers cannot afford to take any matchup for granted.
Consistency has alluded L.A. all season long, a perfect example being a win against the fully healthy Utah Jazz followed by a loss to a shorthanded Indiana Pacers team. So when that is the case, no games can be taken off.
Without Davis, the Lakers should have their hands full on both ends of the court with Bam Adebayo. Adebayo has played just 21 games this season but is averaging an efficient 18.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. The Lakers should be able to go small against him, but he should be a focal point of their game plan.
Another focal point for the Lakers is Jimmy Butler, who was incredible during their six-game Finals series in 2020. Butler leads the Heat in scoring, is fourth in rebounds, second in assists and leads his team in steals. He has been a do-it-all player in the 28 games he’s played this season.
For the Lakers to successfully guard Butler, it’s likely going to take LeBron James stepping up for the star matchup. Outside of James, Stanley Johnson likely serves as the best option to handle the Heat star, but things get extremely thin after that.
Without Lowry and Herro, production from the guard spots is going to be thinner than usual. Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson figure to do most of the heavy lifting on the perimeter, despite both not having particularly great seasons shooting the ball.
The Lakers have an opportunity to come away with a win — and a sweep of the season series with the Heat — regardless of Davis’ availability. To do so, they absolutely cannot lose focus the way they’ve done against lesser opponents. A team like the Heat will absolutely take advantage.
Lakers (23-23) vs. Heat (29-17)
Jan. 23, 2022, 3:00 p.m. PT
FTX Arena, Miami, FL
TV: NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: LeBron James
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Stanley Johnson, Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, Malik Monk
Projected Heat Starting Lineup:
PG: Gabe Vincent
SG: Duncan Robinson
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Bam Adebayo
Key Reserves: Max Strus, Caleb Martin, Dewayne Dedmon, Kyle Guy, Omer Yurtseven
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