The Los Angeles Lakers can make it three wins in a row when they face the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. It is the first home game of 2023 for the Lakers, who were away from Crypto.com Arena for 11 days.
L.A. is coming off a 121-115 victory against the Charlotte Hornets for their second win in a row. Miami is in the second half of their doubleheader in Southern California, defeating the L.A. Clippers 110-100 on Monday night. The Heat have won four of their last five.
The biggest injury news for the Lakers surrounds LeBron James, who will be out with a non-COVID illness. It is the first game he will miss since Dec. 19, when he sat out with a sore ankle on the road against the Phoenix Suns.
James is in the midst of one of the better stretches of his career. He’s scored 40 points in consecutive games after his 38th birthday and averaged 34.5 points in the last 11 games. Unable to depend on LeBron, other Lakers will be asked to do more than usual on offense.
Lonnie Walker IV is missing his third straight game for L.A., this time with a knee injury. Russell Westbrook is expected play after being listed as probable with left foot soreness while Anthony Davis continues to be out with a right foot stress injury.
For Miami, sharpshooter Duncan Robinson is out after undergoing finger surgery while Dewayne Dedmon and Nikola Jovic are also out. Caleb Martin and Gave Vincent are suiting up after being listed as day-to-day.
This is the second matchup between the Lakers and Heat this season — the first one was eight days ago.
It was a comfortable victory for Miami, who feasted on a whopping 26 turnovers by the Lakers. LeBron lamented the turnovers in L.A.’s loss, emphasizing that it was the story of the game. Miami scored 31 points off those turnovers and had 15 more field goal attempts.
Making sure the Lakers keep their turnovers in check is important to secure a win, especially since Miami is among the league’s worst offensive teams. The Heat are 24th in offensive rating with the third-slowest pace in the NBA and average the fewest points in the league. Taking care of the ball ensures the Heat won’t get second or third opportunities to score.
However, as usual, Miami’s defense is still one of the best. Its defensive rating is in the top 10 with versatile defenders such as Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra has a simple mantra — defend and you’ll play. It’s no different with this Miami team, even though the Lakers shot 48.1% from the field and 36% from three in their first meeting.
The Lakers though have some tough matchups defensively with Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.
LeBron and Davis would likely have matched up with them, but it’s up in the air with those two out. Adebayo has scored over 30 points in two consecutive games. Butler is coming off 9 point performance on 2-for-8 shooting. Herro has scored over 20 points in three straight games.
It’s going to be difficult without LeBron, but a win for the Lakers matches their highest win streak of the season. A win would give the Lakers their third three-game winning streak of the season. And with Davis’ return imminent, L.A. hopes to hold on for just a little longer.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-21) vs. Miami Heat (20-18)
7:00 p.m. PT, Jan. 4, 2023
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Austin Reaves
PF: Juan Toscano-Anderson
C: Thomas Bryant
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, Kendrick Nunn
Projected Heat Starting Lineup:
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Tyler Herro
SF: Caleb Martin
SP: Jimmy Butler
C: Bam Adebayo
Key Reserves: Victor Oladipo, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent
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