Preview & Chat: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  January 11, 2009

Records: Lakers 29-6 (1st in the West) Heat 19-16 (6th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.8 (2nd in league) Heat 105.6 (in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.0 (4th in league) Heat 105.6 (11th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Heat Mario Chalmers, D-Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony

Lakers notes: One man’s injury is another man’s opportunity. The question is what you do with it.

Vladimir Radmanovic is not taking advantage of his. Here is what I think is the defining moment of Radman’s recent play: Less than one minute left in the Pacers game, Los Angeles had a three-point lead but Indiana had the ball. Defensive priority is simple — don’t give up a three. But when Travis Diener drove baseline on the right side of the floor, Vladimir Radmanovic on the left wing sagged down off hot-shooting Mike Dunleavy to the free throw line. Dunleavy got a wide-open look at a three, buried the shot and tied the game.

What Radmanovic is supposed to bring is shooting, but that has been spotty. In the last 10 games he is scoring 4.8 points per game, shooting 43%, and a pedestrian 33% from three. Luke Walton is missed, which is saying something.

The guy who is taking advantage of his minutes is Josh Powell. He is coming off the bench and providing solid minutes — rebounds when they are needed, shooting 50% in the last 10 games and added10 points against the Pacers. This is a quality role player, a professional, and rather than sulk because he was buried on a deep team he bided his time and has stepped up when asked. That matters.

Powell gets more time tonight, no Odom again.

The Heat Coming In: First things first — I like what I’ve seen out of Erik Spoelstra. This is a talented but small roster, and he has the team playing to its strengths. There are a lot of teams that are smaller than the Lakers, but the Heat have been the only team whose coach had the guts to front the Lakers bigs and try to force turnovers. Other games I’ve seen smart, gutsy calls from him. The Heat may have found something here.

In the last 10 games has been Wade, 31 points per contest and getting to the line 10 times a game. The book on him has never changed — force him to be a jump shooter, especially from deep, he is shooting just 17.9% from three in his last 10 — but keeping him from getting into the paint is next to impossible. He has one of the best first steps — and maybe the best last step — in the league.

Marion continues to play well, and the Heat have a find in Mario Chalmers. The one other guy to keep an eye on is Daequan Cook coming off the bench, he is second on the team in scoring in the last 10 games and last meeting with the Lakers he was +14 and was a force off the bench. The Lakers need to keep an eye on him.

Last time they met: The Heat slowed the game down, fronted the Lakers bigs (which caused huge problems because of poor ball rotation and led to 21 Laker turnovers) and that Wade guy dropped 35 as the Lakers lost 89-87. The Lakers also shot 52.6% from the free throw line in that game, which didn’t help.

Keys To The Game: Basketball and life is so much about correcting your mistakes. Lincoln trusted McClellan to do that during the Civil War and it cost the country tens of thousands of lives and years of war. Hopefully, that’s not the example the Lakers follow.

First, the Lakers must get the bigs involved — nobody is taller than 6-9 on the Heat front line. In the post Pau and Drew can dominate. If and when the Heat front the Lakers bigs in the post, the weak-side post must flash to the free throw line and create a high-low game that can expose the Heat (with Pau and the ball at the free throw line he can lob to Drew, attack the rim or just bury the jumper).

They cannot turn the ball over. The Heat are third in the league in forcing turnovers, they are aggressive and jump passing lanes. They are long, too. As the Pacers did to the Lakers, you can make them pay for that with ball and player movement on offense, but in the end you can’t cough it up.

Hit your free throws. While you’re at it, try not to foul too much, either.

Phil Jackson has hinted the Lakers may go with some zone tonight, an effort to pack it in a little and make sure Wade doesn’t beat them with lay-ups. That would be interesting.

Where you can watch: 6:30 start with Fox Sports and League Pass nationally.