Preview & Chat: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  December 19, 2008

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
Records: Lakers 21-3 (1st in the West) Heat 12-12 (6th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (3rd in league) Heat 106.9 (17th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102 (4th in league) Heat 107.4 (19th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol (fingers crossed), Andrew Bynum
Heat Mario Chalmers, D-Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony

Lakers notes: It’s Got To Be The Shoes!

If you remember back to last year, Kobe Bryant killed the Heat in both games, and he did it by penetration. On plays in transition, drives and shots in the paint (or just close by) he was 12 of 16. Those longer twos and threes, 5 of 13.

Which brings us back to Kobe this year, who seems to have relied a lot more on jumpers and with that is the reason his eFG% dropped from 50.3% last year to 48.5% this year. His true shooting percentage (which includes him getting to the free throw line) is down to 55.3%, from 57.6% last year. That’s the lowest it’s been in four years. (Full disclosure, 82games.com said Kobe shot 75% jumpers last year and 76% this year, so maybe this is all perception.)

I don’t think this is a case of Kobe having lost a step or having heavy legs after playing in the Olympics (his minutes were not so heavy there as to be more strain then he would have put himself through at the gym). Rather, with two seven footers starting, two guys who live closer to the hoop, the paint is more crowded and the driving lanes are just not there. So, he relies more on the jumper.

The Lakers need to work the offense into spots to where Kobe can get back into a triple threat position. Also, they need to post him up more, they did early but seem to have gotten away from it.

Or, maybe the shoes will make all the difference. Its Got To Be The Shoes!

The Heat Coming In: Wade has been at the heart of the Heat’s turnaround this season, but in the last three games he has looked human — shooting just 33.9%, is 0-8 from three and is scoring 17.7 per game (he leads the league at 28 per game). You can’t count on this slump to continue, but the Lakers may be able to keep him cold if the defense is focused.

Wade is the heart of everything the Heat do on offense, he has to penetrate and draw defenders for anything to happen. Marion can play that role as well. They have shooters around them — Haslem can hit the 15-footer, Chalmers and Quinn (and Cook, who is expected back tonight) can bomb from three. But none of those can create their own shot.

I’m looking forward to getting a look at Michael Beasley. His numbers are basically average (-2.2 in +/-, 14.9 PER, 46.4% eFG%) but I haven’t seen enough to make a judgment. David Thorpe at ESPN.com says Beasley is improving, especially on defense, but he is still playing like a rookie at times.

Keys To The Game: Everyone will be focused on Wade and Kobe, but this game should be won by the Lakers inside.

Once again the Lakers have a big size advantage in the paint — the front line of the Heat is 6-7, 6-8, 6-9. The Lakers should pound it inside to Bynum and Gasol, get points close to the rim, and dominate the glass. Now, they should have done this against the Knicks, too, but they didn’t. The one difference here is pace — the Heat average 8 fewer possessions a game than the Knicks. They run a half-court perimeter offense, which can be good when you have a Wade-like guy, but it should not spread the Lakers out like the Knicks could do.

Also, this is another game where the Lakers depth should wear out Miami, but not if they play like they have lately, Farmar is letting the offense get into too much one-on-one and I can tell you it is frustrating Odom, among others. Maybe we’ll seen them fall into some more triangle tonight.

Turnovers will be a key — the Heat average 3.3 fewer turnovers than their opponent per game (the largest differential in the NBA). The Lakers have been careless at times with the ball, and if they do that tonight they will pay a steep price.

Where you can watch: 5 p.m., KCAL 9 here if you love you some John Ireland, or ESPN if you love you some Stuart Scott game breaks.

Kurt

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