Heat Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Joel Anthony
Key Reserves: F Udonis Haslem, G Norris Cole, F Shane Battier
The Lakers look to extend their current two-game winning streak as they face the surging Miami Heat in an afternoon game on national television. This match-up has been highly anticipated by Laker fans to not only avenge their previous loss to the Heat, but also to avenge for the broken nose, concussion and whip-lash injuries handed out to Kobe Bryant by Dwyane Wade during the All-Star game last weekend. The Heat lost Friday night to the Utah Jazz on a final possession miss and are looking to get back on track. The Lakers are looking to carry the momentum they have created since the start of the second-half of the regular season to win a big game at home.
Frontcourt: Chris Bosh did not play in Utah on Friday due to the death of his grandmother. Bosh is expected to be on the court Sunday. Shane Battier replaced Bosh in the starting lineup in Utah. The Heat are 5-1 with Battier as a starter. Battier has been thought of by many as the best Kobe stopper (if there is such a thing) in the league. Fans should expect to see Battier in Kobe’s face or should I say mask, on the defensive end.
If Bosh starts, it should be noted that he is averaging 18.4 points per game and 8.3 boards per game. Joel Anthony is not an offensive threat and should not win the battle against Andrew Bynum. Bynum needs to demonstrate his strength down low and have a big game for the Lakers. Udonis Haslem is averaging 6.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game, and can be aggressive on both ends of the court, which maybe a problem for Troy Murphy to defend against. LeBron James is having a superb year. Some have even said that James is having his best year yet. James is averaging 27.9 points, 8.2 boards and 6.8 assists per game. Metta World Peace will have a purely defensive assignment today since stopping LeBron’s offensive game will be crucial.
Backcourt: The most intriguing match-up tonight will be Kobe against Dwyane Wade battle. Head games, broken noses and words aside, Wade is tough to defend. However, Kobe will be expected to have a little more in his step especially at home. Kobe needs to make Wade force long jumpers and limit his ability to get to the rim. Wade is averaging 23.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. Mario Chalmers is averaging 10.9 points per game and is a constant threat around and beyond the perimeter, where he is shooting 46 percent from the three-point line. Rookie Norris Cole is making a big mark off of the Heat’s bench. He has great speed and has the ability to shoot the jumper or drive the lane. Cole is averaging 8.3 points and 21 minutes per game.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Control the Paint: The Lakers have to control the paint on both sides of the court. Not only does Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol need to generate offense from the post by taking advantage of their strengths over Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony, but Gasol and Bynum need to clog the lane on the defensive side. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are creating most of their offense by driving the ball and taking advantage of easy opportunities. The Lakers bigs’ defense will be tested throughout the game by the Heat and defense will be the ultimate key to victory.
Consistency (Especially in 2nd and 3rd Quarter): During the last game between these two teams, the Lakers did not perform with consistency throughout all four quarters of the game. This has been a season long problem for the Lakers, which was demonstrated again Friday night when they almost completely blew their big lead in the fourth quarter. In January’s match-up, Miami took advantage of the Lakers lack of consistency in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, which ultimately caused Miami to win the game. Miami is coming off of a last possession loss and will definitely bring the energy needed to win. The Lakers must not only match but up their consistency with energy, offense and especially defense.
Home Court Advantage: The Lakers are 16-2 at home this season. Those two losses at home come from Eastern Conference opponents. The Lakers seem to have things figured out at Staples Center. Now, if they could only replicate their home performance on the road. In a big game such as this, the crowd can certainly be a factor. The crowd will definitely voice their opinions of Wade and LeBron during the game, which can influence momentum and effort by the Lakers. The Lakers need a win against an elite team and a win against Miami would be the best way to do it.