Best friends LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will square off for the final time ever as the Los Angeles Lakers host the Miami Heat at Staples Center. Wade didn’t play in the first meeting between the two as the Lakers won 113-97 in Miami.
Of course, that game was highlighted by LeBron’s 51 point performance, his highest scoring game in a Lakers uniform. Wade, on the other hand, is coming off a 25-point performance and showing he still has plenty in the tank in his final season.
Both teams come into this game playing good basketball recently. The Lakers have won five of their last six games and are coming off possibly their best performance of the 2018-19 NBA season in Saturday’s blowout win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Heat have won four of their last five and are coming off their own road blowout victory over the LA Clippers.
The Heat have done that despite not being at full strength. Hassan Whiteside will miss his third straight game and there have been trade rumors surrounding him. Additionally, Heat leading scorer Josh Richardson, as well as key bench contributor Tyler Johnson, are both questionable for the game.
The Lakers have their own injury issues as Brandon Ingram is out with the sprained ankle he suffered a few days ago. Rajon Rondo is progressing from a broken hand, but is still out for the time being.
One Laker who has stepped up recently is Kyle Kuzma. After an inconsistent start to the season, Kuzma has come on strong in the last five games, averaging 21.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. He has said that he wants to be known as more than a scorer and his recent play has shown that he is capable. Now he will need to continue that level of play as he could very well be developing into that second scorer the Lakers need.
The Lakers have had to rely on all of their guards with Ingram and Rondo out and they have stepped up to the plate. Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, and Svi Mykhailiuk were all excellent against the Grizzlies and will need to keep up that level. Mykhailiuk in particular has seemingly gotten more comfortable after early struggles shooting the ball this season.
One place where the Lakers could take advantage of the Heat is on the glass. JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler have been great at creating second opportunities for the Lakers and Miami is one of the worst teams at clearing the defensive glass. Crashing the boards could pay major dividends for the Lakers.
The turnover battle will also be extremely important. Miami wins with defense primarily and they are great at limiting points in the paint and fastbreak points, two areas where the Lakers thrive. Miami struggles with their own turnover issues, however, so taking advantage of that and creating easy buckets will be huge for the Lakers.
The Lakers will also need to keep up their recent three-point shooting level. Hart, Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, and Mykhailiuk were all on fire in Memphis and they will be needed as Miami boasts plenty of players who can get hot in an instant.
Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson, and Josh Richardson (if he plays) are all above average shooters. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk has had big moments against the Lakers before, Goran Dragic is always capable, and Justise Winslow is even shooting a career-high from deep.
The Lakers have been at their best when the defense has been clicking. While the Heat aren’t an offensive juggernaut, they are more than capable of a big explosion if the Lakers come out lax.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-10) vs. Miami Heat (11-14)
7:30 P.M. PT, Dec. 10, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Josh Hart
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyson Chandler, Lance Stephenson, Svi Mykhailiuk
Projected Heat starting lineup:
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Josh Richardson
SF: Rodney McGruder
PF: James Johnson
C: Bam Adebayo
Key Reserves: Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow