Heat Projected Starting Line-up:
PG: Carlos Arroyo
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Key Reserves: James Jones, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller
Injuries: Udonis Haslem (out for season)
The defending champion Lakers will face off against potential challengers to the throne in the most anticipated match-up of the 2010-11 NBA season. All eyes will be on Tinseltown when the Heat step onto the hardwood at Staples Center. Today’s game will be an amazing gift from Santa to NBA fans everywhere.
The Big Three: LeBron, Wade and Bosh account for two thirds of the Heat’s point total. LeBron may be the King without a ring, but he does have two princes and a court full of jesters. While he is arguably the most physically gifted player to ever play the game, he really has nothing to show for it thus far. MVP times 2 does not equal a championship ring. That being said, LeBron is still one of the best forwards in the game and will surely test the Lakers’ guile. Wade has been playing well in the month of December with averages of 26.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.4 helpers, 1.8 steals, and 1 swat. A former champion, he is a fierce competitor who can come through in the clutch. Wade is one of the premier shooting guards in the NBA and will go neck and neck with Kobe. Bosh is averaging 18.4 points and 8 boards for the season and has shown that he can still score with two alpha dogs above him in the pecking order. However, his defense is still an eye sore as evidenced by his meager 0.7 blocks per game.
The Others: Arroyo and Big Z round out the starting five, but they might as well be mannequins who stand around listlessly watching the Big Three play. The key bench players are Jones, Chalmers, and Miller who are also known as “the nothin-but-threes” because that is all that they do. Jones and Chalmers combine for 3.1 treys per game. Miller has yet to make a field goal this season, but once he gets back to full strength he is expected to be a deep ball threat. Anthony and Dampier relieve Big Z at center but are barely worth mentioning – whoever is playing center for the Heat really doesn’t do much except for take up space on the floor.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Media networks like to make a big deal out of the individual match-ups: Kobe vs. Wade. Gasol vs. Bosh. Artest vs. LeBron. While the individual match-ups are compelling to casual viewers, the true sports fan knows that depth defines a caliber team. I won’t lie, I’ll be the first one to tell you that I can’t wait to see Artest guard LeBron and Kobe battle Wade. But, championship teams are really measured from the tenth man up – how else did Robert Horry manage to capture seven rings? There is a dearth of quality players on the Heat bench and this is where the Lakers and the Killer B’s should have the advantage.
The Laker bigs will out-size, out-length, and out-play the Heat bigs. The Heat simply have no answer for Gasol, Odom, and Bynum who should be able to repeatedly punish the Heat in the paint.
This will be a good litmus test for the Lakers to see where they stack up against an Eastern conference contender. I’m hopeful that they won’t repeat last Christmas’ nightmare in which they were blown out by the Cavs. Expect the Lakers to send a message to the league that the crown resides in LA and any contender will have to pry it from their steel grip.
Twas the morning of Christmas, when all through the court,
Kobe, LeBron face to face, dueling for good sport.
The jerseys were hung by the locker with care,
In hopes that the Lakers’ victory soon would be there.
Laker Injuries: Theo Ratliff