Despite a big first half that saw the Los Angeles Lakers score 71 points, they still ended up losing 117-113 to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night. The loss puts them at a 1-4 record on their current 7-game road trip. Jordan Clarkson had a great shooting night as he made seven three-pointers to help him lead the team with 25 points. Nick Young was right behind with 24 points. The duo of Kemba Walker (28 points) and Nicolas Batum (23 points) for the Hornets was too much for the Lakers down the stretch.
Batum essentially sealed the win when he drove past his defender and hit a shot off the glass to give the Hornets the lead with 13 seconds remaining. Tonight the Lakers try to get their second win of the road trip in Miami as they battle against the Heat.
The Heat are coming off a 136-130 loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson led the team with 32 points apiece. Miami has struggled since Dwyane Wade left South Beach during the offseason, but they still have some nice pieces to build around in Whiteside, who re-signed with the team over the summer, Johnson, and Justise Winslow. The Lakers will once again have their hands full against a young team that has some good talent.
Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson hold down the Heat backcourt. Dragic is averaging 19.1 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game this season. He has been a thorn on the Lakers’ side since his days when he was with the Phoenix Suns. He is able to fill up the stat sheet pretty well when he is in a rhythm, so D’Angelo Russell or whoever else is guarding him must do good job of staying in front of him.
Richardson is a good-sized wing who is athletic. He averages 10.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game this season. To make sure the Lakers come out with a win, they must make sure players like Ellington and Richardson do not have career nights.
Off the bench the Heat have Tyler Johnson who will need to play an even larger role with Wayne Elllington out due to a hamstring. Johnson re-signed with Miami over the summer to a four-year $50 million deal despite only having two years of NBA experience. This season he has proved he might have be worth that money averaging 13.4 points and 3.1 assists per game. He has the ability to have huge scoring nights just like in the game versus the Magic when he scored 32 points. He will put pressure on the guards of the Lakers so Russell, Nick Young, and Jordan Clarkson must be ready for the challenge.
The Lakers backcourt of Russell and Young is playing well right now. Young has seemed to find his groove again after missing a few games with a calf strain. The Lakers will need him to put some points up in order for them to have success tonight. He will also be counted to play solid defense on either Dragic or Johnson. Russell has also played his way back into form after a left knee injury. He is averaging a cool 15 points while also dishing out 4.5 assists per game this season. Against an offensive minded Miami backcourt, Russell and Young must provide L.A. with some scoring to come out with a victory.
Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams have also continued to play well. As stated beforehand, Clarkson is coming off a 28-point outing in Charlotte so hopefully his shooting touch travels with him to Miami. Williams has been exceptional for the Lakers as he leads the team in scoring at 18.8 points per game. His ability create shots on his own is really helpful for such a young team.
Hassan Whiteside, Josh McRoberts, and Justise Winslow anchor the Heat frontcourt. Whiteside is having an outstanding season; he is currently averaging 18.1 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 2.41 blocks per game. He is certainly a handful for opposing centers as he can run up and down the court really well. Timofey Mozgov must do a good job of moving his feet, staying in front of Whiteside, and boxing him out.
McRoberts presence allows the Heat to spread the floor. He is capable of knocking midrange and three-point shots, so Julius Randle must not to play too far off of him defensively. His ability to handle the ball well is also a testament to his versatility, and even though he is only averaging five points per game he will be determined to play well to show that he deserves to stay on the floor.
Winslow is having good sophomore season averaging 10.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He is also very versatile as he can handle the ball and play good on the defensive end. He isn’t a great perimeter shooter, however so the Lakers must keep him on the outside and out of the paint.
With Rodney McGruber out due to an ankle injury, the Heat depth will be tested as the likes of Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed will need to play a bigger role than normal.
The Lakers will be missing a lot in their frontcourt for this game. Both Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black are out due to injury while starter Julius Randle will miss this game to be with his fiancee for the birth of his first child. With Randle gone more pressure will fall on starters Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng.
Mozgov’s forte is his ability finish around the rim and providing a much needed presence on the defensive end. Tonight he battles against Whiteside so it will be important for him to anchor down the paint versus a pick-and-roll heavy team. Deng has finally seemed to find himself offensively. He has stringed together multiple performances of double figure scoring. He was signed to be a leader on a young Lakers team and to also bring a proven offensive game. It looks like he is starting to find some consistency.
Who takes Randle’s spot in the starting lineup is up in the air, but it will likely come down to Brandon Ingram and Thomas Robinson.
Brandon Ingram has struggled offensively this season, but that has not stopped him playing well on the defensive end. Hopefully he can find his shooting stroke soon so that he can give the Lakers another consistent scoring option on the floor. Robinson brings constant energy and hustle. His work on the boards will be very important considering the Heat’s strength on the glass.
3 Keys to Victory
Rebound The Ball
The Heat currently average 45 rebounds per game, which is ninth-best in the league. If the Lakers want a chance at winning tonight everyone on the floor must do a good job of boxing out their man. The biggest challenge will be Hassan Whiteside, but as long no other Heat player has a big rebound night, the Lakers should be okay.
Take Care Of The Basketball
Turnovers have been the Lakers kryptonite this season as they average 15.5 per game. If they start acting recklessly with ball, the guards of Miami will most likely take advantage and speed down the court for an easy basket. Russell, Clarkson, Williams, and Ingram must make sure they protect the ball tonight.
Make Some Threes
When the Lakers shoot well from behind the arc, they usually find themselves in the game for most of the night. If they can make some threes early tonight it will force Miami, who is one the worst three-point shooting teams, to try and make some of their own.
Los Angeles Lakers (11-20) Vs. Miami Heat (9-20)
5:00 P.M. PST, December 22, 2016
American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Heat Starting Lineup:
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Josh Richardson
SF: Justise Winslow
PF: Josh McRoberts
C: Hassan Whiteside
Key Reserves: Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Luol Deng
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Thomas Robinson, Ivica Zubac