A Lakers game on December 25th has become as much of a Christmas day tradition as a Detroit Lions football game on Thanksgiving (or, for all of you non-football fans, about as traditional as Santa Claus and a christmas tree).
Since Kobe Bryant entered the league in 1996, the Lakers have spent their Christmas on the hardwood in 12 out of the past 14 NBA seasons (or 13, if you don’t count the lockout season, where no games were played until after the new year).
While Santa Claus has not been especially nice to the Lakers during that stretch (visible in their 5-7 Christmas Day record), it has become just as customary for the fans to receive one of the most anticipated matchups of the season on that day. Whether it was Shaq’s first return to Los Angeles or an NBA Finals rematch, Christmas Day never ceases to provide the fans with a excellent
This year will be no different. In arguably the most anticipated game of the regular season, the Lakers will play host to the newly assembled South Beach Super Friends of the Miami Heat. The contest itself is pegged to be a classic battle of David versus Goliath, highlighted by a superstar studded cast that features Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade; however, the game’s x-factor will undoubtedly reside in the matchup of Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh.
Although neither player carries a hype-instilling swagger parallel to that of Bryant, James or Wade – Gasol and Bosh have proven to be all-stars in their own regard; as well as the key to a Christmas Day victory for their respective teams.
But with Kobe, LeBron and Wade on the court, why does the outcome hinge so heavily on the matchup of a second (Gasol) and third (Bosh) tier stars? The answer is simple: Whoever wins the battle down low will ultimately win the game.
Aside from a lack of quality players past their “Big Three,” Miami’s most glaring hole lies in the front court. While they do have Bosh, a five-time all-star and a career 20/10 player, the list of suitable help in the post and on the glass does not extend further than him. With the exception of the below-average Joel Anthony, Miami’s front court is composed of outdated veterans who are just barely hanging on to the twilight of their careers: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, Erick Dampier and Jammal Magliore. As a result, the Heat are going to find it difficult to contend in the paint with the Lakers set of big men, which is arguably the most imposing group in the NBA. Led by Gasol, the versatile Lamar Odom and the recently recovered Andrew Bynum, the Lakers possess all the tools necessary to give Miami fits down low for a full 48 minutes.
Assuming Bynum returns to the starting lineup, the Lakers will tipoff with Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher on the floor together for the first time this season. This shifts Gasol back to the power forward spot, allowing him to matchup with Bosh for the majority of the game.
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