Written by: DaVion Lee
The Los Angeles Lakers (45-15), after finishing a homestand of 3-0, start their three-game road trip tonight against the Miami Heat (30-31).
The Heat’s record, however, does not fully explain the level of toughness they bring to the Lakers every matchup.
The last meeting between the two was another milestone to Kobe Bryant’s already impressive Hall of Fame resumé. With 3.2 seconds left, and what seemed like a 107-105 Heat victory, Bryant banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to lift the Lakers to a 108-107 win. Kobe finished with 33 points and 7 rebounds.
This time around, the Mamba is still looking for a return of his venomous strike.
Bryant is averaging 21.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 6.8 apg since his return from injury, and is shooting at a dismal 34.3 percent.
The Heat have recently gotten their superstar back as well. Dwyane Wade is two games back from a four game absence due to a sore calf. Miami had lost four straight before a 110-106 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, March 2nd. Wade recorded 35 points with 12 assists and four steals.
Despite being under .500, the Heat are a game up on Charlotte for the eighth seed, and only two behind Toronto for the fifth spot. Thus, the oddities of the Eastern Conference.
But this game will bring almost a playoff atmosphere, as the Heat are in a must-win situation for the remaining 21 games in the season. The Lakers will need to be ready.
Wade will give Kobe a challenge tonight, making him work on both the offensive and defensive end. Artest may look to take a part of the load in guarding the superstar guard. Michael Beasley is Miami’s X-factor, as is Lamar Odom for the Lakers. Odom’s played well in the last 10 games, averaging 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds.
L.A. once again has a size advantage. Bynum will matchup against a 6’11 Jermaine O’neal, while Pau facing a 6’8 Michael Beasley. The Heat are a defensive-minded team, so this will be opposite to the Indiana game, where the Lakers tallied up a 122-99 victory.
(C) A. Bynum
(PF) P. Gasol
(SF) R. Artest
(SG) K. Bryant
(PG) D. Fisher
S. Brown (Right thumb) is day-to-day.
(C) J. O’Neal
(PF) M. Beasley
(SF) Q. Richardson
(SG) D. Wade
(PG) R. Alston
D. Wade (Calf) is day-to-day.
M. Chalmers (Thumb) is day-to-day.
The Lakers lead the season series 1-0 and are 29-14 all-time against the Heat. Kobe Bryant (25,355 career points) is on pace to soon pass Alex English (25,613) for 12th place on the all-time scoring list.