Road to the Repeat: Bringing the Heat

Tonight at the downtown hoop dojo (Staples), the Lakers (14-3) finally take on an opponent with a winning record as Miami (10-8) and D Wade come to town. Recently a series of blow outs have caused some extreme comfort in La La Land, Lakers fans feeling good about the impressive showings since the return of Gasol. However, concern has still been looming in regards to the lack of competition. Those thoughts will be either put to bed or exaggerated this weekend, depending on the results of the games tonight and Sunday vs. Phoenix. Miami is a team in some respects similar to the Lakers, which could in turn give them a few issues. They have a superstar shooting guard in Dwayne Wade and some serviceable big men with the likes of Jermaine O’Neal, Michael Beasley, and Udonis Haslem patrolling the paint. The Lakers are more talented as a whole, yet tonight is perhaps one of those games were a large contribution from the bench could be the difference. Here are a few keys for tonight as the Lakers look to defend the best record in the NBA:

  • Paint Protection: Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom need to assert themselves from the outset tonight when it comes to rebounding and scoring in the paint. The Heat have reasonably talented big men, yet each of them tends to be streaky. The purple and gold cannot afford to let one of them get going as it could provide a ripple effect throughout the entire game. In the last few double digit wins the key has been a greater emphasis on demonstrating their clear dominance in the key, shown by a dramatic uptick in the points in the paint number.
  • Bench Contributions: According to Yahoo! Sports Mitch has put the entire Lakers reserve unit on notice as rumors are circulating that all of them expect Lamar Odom are currently on the trade block. Big games like tonight would be the perfect time to emphasize their worth to the defending champs, and potentially sway trade considerations. Overall, this season has been disappointing for the former bench mob. Any player among the group who can begin to show significant improvements will no doubt find favor among the coaching staff and Lakers Nation collectively.
  • Battle of Two Stars: Who will reign supreme tonight? KB24 or D Wade. While they may not say it out loud, each player wants nothing more than to have a dominating game versus the other. Look for Kobe to get going quickly tonight and stick it to Wade, while Ron Artest should draw the initial assignment on defense, don’t expect it to last the entire contest.

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Tip-off: 7:30 PST


Radio: 710 ESPN (NEW home of the Los Angeles Lakers)