Ever since the offseason when the Miami Heat ‘South Beach Big Three and Super Friends’ formed, NBA fans, reporters and analysts have been waiting for their shot against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. A lot of people think that the Heat are the team to spoil the Lakers three-peat and they finally have their first matchup on Christmas Day.
This will be the money game so far this season because this will show how good the Heat really are and how vulnerable the Lakers are. Both teams have gone on opposite directions recently as the Heat have won a staggering 12 of 13 games while the Lakers have posted a pedestrian 8-6 record in their last 14 contests. The Heat started the season 9-8 while the Lakers started 13-2.
The Heat finally found their identity because their team is finally starting to find good chemistry in both sides of the floor. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been running and leaping over everybody while Chris Bosh is finally starting to fit in. The pressure also seems to finally be off their head coach Erik Spoelstra since their recent 12-game win streak.
The Lakers have been mediocre because of injuries, inconsistent play from their stars and reforming their team when Andrew Bynum came back. Bynum missed the first two months of the season and Theo Ratliff, their back-up center, got hurt which meant Pau Gasol was forced to play more minutes. Once that happened, Gasol hurt his hamstring and his play started to slip for the first half of December.
Although, in the last five games, Gasol seemed to have gotten his game back as he has averaged 19.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4 assists per game during that span. The Lakers have been 4-1 since Bynum has come back, but he has been limited because he just came off knee surgery during the offseason and the team wants him to regain his conditioning before he is inserted into the starting lineup. In fact, in Tuesday’s 98-79 embarrassment by the Milwaukee Bucks at the Staples Center, Bynum managed to hold Andrew Bogut scoreless during his 18 minutes on the floor.
This game will also be a great test for both teams because both of them have losing records against ball clubs above .500. The Miami have posted a 5-7 record, including a 1-5 record against the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic. The Lakers have had the lightest schedule in the NBA as they have only played five games against teams above .500, and they not taken advantage of it winning only two of those five contests.
Even though the Lakers are playing at home, the Heat will be able to shut up the crowd and win a very close game. As good as the Lakers offense is they haven’t been able to stop anyone often this year and the Heat are going to run all over them. If the Lakers manage to get the Heat to their half-court offense they will win but if the Heat start to get on transition, that might be a different story. If the Heat manage to get the Lakers to score less than 100 points, they will win this game.
After we celebrate the holidays with opening presents and eating until we nap, we will watch the Celtics-Magic game and then watch the Heat-Lakers game. Heat up your hot chocolate and get the popcorn ready because these games are going to be fun to watch.