Records: Lakers 28-16 (6 seed); Heat 9-39
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.9 (4th); Heat 102.3 (28th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.7 (9th); Heat 110.4 (25th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladamir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Heat: Jason Williams, Some Guy Not In My Fave Five, Shaun Marion, Dorell Wright, Mark Blount
Hanging with Ronny and Jordan: Really, are there two other Lakers youâ€™d want to spend some time with? On a recent road trip the Lakers.com staff gave a video camera to Ronny Turriaf and let him (and Jordan Farmar) tape â€œa day in the lifeâ€ and the video is now up. Great stuff again from Lakers.com, which has done a great job this season breaking down the wall between the team and its fans.
Lakers Notes: The win in Orlando was a lot of fun to watch, very entertaining game. For us fans. I doubt the coaches looked at it that way. That was a painfully sloppy game on defense â€” Orlando had an offensive rating of 125.6 (the Lakers were 130). The Lakers can be very bad about recognizing the shooters on the floor â€“ they were sagging off the Magicâ€™s best three-point guys (especially early) and making odd choices. At one point in the second quarter, Jameer Nelson drove the lane and Pau Gasol did not rotate off of Foyle to take away the lay-up â€” again, not recognizing the most dangerous player.
The defense of late is bothering me, but the great offense with Pau is covering it up for now. And the Lakers are still without two of their three best defenders (Bynum and Ariza), so help is on the way. Here are a few other quick thoughts from the game:
â€¢ Both Dwight Howard and Kobe had monster first quarter dunks. Has anyone ever thrown it down harder than Howard? I donâ€™t think Dominique Wilkins did, and he was the first guy to leap to my mind.
â€¢ As was pointed out at Third Quarter Collapse, it would have been funny if that second quarter verbal spat between Sasha and JJ Reddick had come to blows. Worst fight in professional sports history.
â€¢ Donâ€™t you just love how smart Pau is on offense? He almost always recognizes where the mismatch is and gets the ball there.
â€¢ As Craig W. pointed out in the comments, one year Elgin Baylor and Jerry West AVERAGED better than 30 points per game for the Lakers. We tend to think of them as GMs and forget they are two of the all time great players.
The Heat Coming In: On the Kamenetzky brotherâ€™s podcast the other day, I echoed what many have said about the Shaq trade from the Miami perspective â€” it rid them of the anchor holding back rebuilding process.
But it also should make them a better team right now. With D Wade and Marion the Heat now have two of the best finishers on the break in the Association. The Heat have not been a running team this season â€” their 90 possessions per game put them dead in middle of the league at 15th â€” but Riley should now release the hounds. Also, Marion should improve the Heat defense, giving them a quality perimeter defender (I expect he will get key minutes on Kobe today).
They also get a boost at backup (and maybe eventually starting) point guard with Marcus Banks. I may be the only person in America who thinks so, and he wasnâ€™t what they hoped in Phoenix, but I still think he can be a solid starting PG in this league (something Miami needs).
The Heat have not been good at either end of the floor, but the problems on offense are glaring. There is only on player â€” Mr. Wade â€” with a PER above the league average of 15. Sure, that stat is really just a snapshot, but in this case itâ€™s a pretty ugly photo. (To be fair, Shaq and Alonzo Mourning were both above 15, but they are both gone now.)
Keys To The Game: The Shaq of 2008 may be a shadow of the Shaq of 2000, but when the alternative is Mark Blount you still lose something at both ends of the court. The Heat have very little of quality inside the paint and the Lakers should be able to get a huge offensive night from Gasol â€” he will torch Blount if not doubled, and if he is doubled he passes incredibly well out of the post. Adding to the Heat woes, Alexander Johnson (another decent big body) is out with an ankle sprain.
The Heat offense has not been great this year because itâ€™s been all Wade all the time, and if itâ€™s just one player any team can slow him some. All the pressure on Wade has also meant his turnovers are up (13% of his used possessions end in a turnover this season). The Lakers should be able to get some turnovers and convert those into easy points on the other end.
This is another game the Lakers bench should help them pull away. And the Lakers want to pull away. You donâ€™t want Wade with the ball in his hands and a chance to win the game at the end.
Where you can watch: Game time is 12:30 pm (Pacific) and we will all be watching on ABC. I just want to see lots of Lost promos, and I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll be disappointed.