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General Thoughts on the Season

Chris Kaman was the fifth highest paid player on the Los Angeles Lakers this season making $3.1 million. However, he had the second fewest minutes (19 minutes per game) on the team among all the regulars. Only Robert Sacre received less playing time.

Usually, a player receives little playing time when they struggle. That wasn’t the case for Kaman, though. Like Jordan Hill, Kaman was subjected to minimal playing time by Mike D’Antoni and had a series of DNP-CD’s despite contributing to the team in a positive way.

During his exit interview, Kaman expressed his frustrations and said that he doesn’t think two bigs fits D’Antoni’s style of offense.

While he did have several injuries throughout the season that also cut his playing time, Kaman could barely find his way on the floor even when he was healthy. There’s no doubt that this became frustrating as the season dragged along.

No, Kaman isn’t a Pau Gasol. No one expects him to be. However, he certainly wasn’t deserving of having the second fewest minutes on a terrible team. This is a guy who on one of the league’s worst defensive teams, had the second best defensive rating on his team at 103.6, yet once again, he received the second least playing time. Some of the times he would get DNPs or slashed playing time were highly questionable and inexplicable.

After a 17-rebound performance in a late December loss to the Golden State Warriors, Kaman had his minutes cut to half for the next game. Then, on Christmas he received a DNP against the Miami Heat. What’s confusing is that D’Antoni played him for 30 minutes in the following game against the Utah Jazz (oh, and he had a 19-point, 10-rebound showing in a win).

It almost seems like D’Antoni had no idea what to do with Kaman. Sure, he wasn’t the most consistent player, but it seems like his punishment for one bad game was too severe at times. He would go weeks without playing, and then put up a string of games with efficient shooting and strong rebounding only to be benched again.

Kaman played in nine games where he received more than 24 minutes of playing time. In those games, he had six double-doubles and he scored in double figures every time averaging 19.2 points and 11.1 rebounds in those games. Those are Gasol numbers! Scratch what I said before. Kaman was a Gasol when he got his fair share of floor time!

Strengths/Weaknesses

When Kaman was on the floor this year, the Lakers were significantly a better defensive team. When he was off the floor, the Lakers defensive rating was 108.9, compared to 103.6 when he was on the floor. The Lakers net rating with Kaman on the court was also almost twice as good as when he was on the bench (-3.7 against -6.5).

Offensively, however, it was a different story. Kaman had an offensive rating of 99, which could have turned the offensive minded D’Antoni off. That being said, he was an efficient shooter from inside and near the paint.

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It would’ve been interesting to see how Kaman’s numbers would be different if had more playing time. This season marked the least playing time he’s ever received in his career — almost ten minutes per game fewer than his career average. However, his points per game average (10.4) was only a little over one point less than his career average of 11.7. His production was still there despite the lack of playing time. Finally, his player efficiency rating of 17 was the second highest of his career.

Highlight of the Season

The moment that will live on the longest from Kaman’s season is the picture (and the resulting memes) of him sprawled out on the Lakers’ bench in a game against the Cavs. In a game the Lakers finished with only 4 available players, Kaman enjoyed the extra space on the bench and decided to take the phrase “getting some rest on the bench” very literally.

The best moment of Kaman’s season probably came towards the end, however. The Lakers were playing spoiler against the Phoenix Suns and Kaman put on a spectacular performance where he scored 28 points on 13-of-19 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds in a 16-point victory. The Suns were riding a six-game winning streak prior to that loss. After that, they lost five of their last nine and missed the playoffs.

Going Forward

Kaman is a free agent this summer and could probably stay since D’Antoni is gone. Also, since he had some injuries, is getting older, and had limited playing time this year, the 32-year old may have lost some leverage in negotiation. If the Lakers can take him for less than the amount they were paying him, then they should keep him by all means. He’s a veteran big who isn’t afraid to shoot and could bring some pop from the bench.

Final Grade:

Incomplete.

It’s difficult to grade Kaman’s season. When he got playing time, he performed at a B caliber level (for Kaman expectations). Unfortunately, he only got playing time in a third of the games he played, which wasn’t that many because of injuries and DNPs.

General Thoughts on Player:

The buzzer sounded at the Bradley Center on a chilly spring Milwaukee night and the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves on the losing end once again in a season that just didn’t end quickly enough. The 16-time NBA champions had just been swept in a season series against the Milwaukee Bucks. This pretty much summed up the Lakers woeful season, who have lost to the bad and been crushed by the best throughout the season. It was difficult to find many positives after a season like this that was riddled with countless injuries, but walking out of the locker room in Milwaukee was Jordan Hill, one of the few silver linings in the Lakers dismal 2013-14 season.

Hill scored 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds that night in just 31 minutes. He made 13 of his 17 field goal attempts. Nine of his 16 rebounds were of the offensive variety. These type of numbers weren’t an anomaly either. Hill continuously showed this season how efficient he can be…when he got playing time.

The big man with dreadlocks missed almost a month due to injury, but that’s not the only reason why he wasn’t on the floor throughout most of the season. Hill played in 72 games but only averaged close to 20 minutes per game despite playing very well in limited playing time. His per 36 numbers were highly efficient — 16.7 points and 12.8 rebounds. For whatever reason, Mike D’Antoni would not play him the minutes that Hill deserved despite all the injuries the team had until April – when Hill finally got playing time and delivered.

Throughout March and April, Hill averaged over 27 minutes per game – well above his season average. April was his most productive month as he averaged 29 minutes and scored 16.6 points and grabbed 10.1 rebounds per game. When Hill got his minutes, he averaged a double double, but for whatever reason, Mike D’Antoni did not start playing him much until later in the season.

That night in Milwaukee was the beginning of Hill’s rise in the end of the season. His Per 36 numbers were always solid, but we hadn’t seen if it would actually translate to real stats if he did get playing time. Hill was successful in doing so on a horrendous team and for this reason, there is no doubt his price will go up in the offseason.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Hill has limitations. He’s not the next Dwight Howard or Roy Hibbert. Defensively he’s not the greatest player in the world and this is evidenced by his defensive rating of 108.2. That said, this could have been a product of the system he played in, which didn’t stress defense at all as demonstrated by the 16 consecutive games they allowed 100 or more points from early January until February. Hill did average close to two blocks per game in April, when he got his most playing time.

Defensive deficiencies or not, Hill is a guy that the Lakers need to try to retain in the offseason. He only made $3.5 million this year and he’s a high energy player the Lakers could sign for a couple of years for a good price. His rebounding abilities and constant energy are reason enough for the team to bring him back.

Just think about it for a second. Hill was subjected to awful minutes by D’Antoni this year. Shawne Williams and Ryan Kelly averaged more minutes than Hill. If a player is producing and not getting minutes there’s no doubt that this could lead to frustration. The fact that Hill still played hard and produced despite not getting the minutes he deserved is a testament to his character and focus.

Hill’s biggest strength of course comes on the glass. He grabs a lot of rebounds but what makes him valuable is that he grabs a high percentage of available rebounds. He grabbed 13.9 percent of all available offensive rebounds which was sixth best in the league and as every NBA stat geek knows, offensive rebounds are extremely important because they give a team more possessions to score.

It’ll be interesting to see if this would keep up if Hill had a central role on a winning team. Guesses are that he can easily be a high energy guy off the bench and average 25-30 minutes per game. With D’Antoni out of the picture, perhaps Hill will be more inclined to stay in LA, but there’s no doubt that there will be teams courting him.

Most Memorable Moment:

From the aforementioned Bucks game, Jordan Hill grabs a rebound and takes three players up with him for the dunk. It’s a perfect example of his hard work, determination, physicality, and athleticism.

Overall Grade:

Hard work and determination, especially when you play for one of the worst teams in the NBA, should always be noted. When that hard work also translates to production, it turns into value.

Hill has value and he deserves to play somewhere next year where he won’t be getting the second fewest minutes on his team from guys who played at least half the season. Sure, he didn’t fit D’Antoni’s system, but he kept his mouth shut and was a good soldier. When he did play, he provided energy and a great spark.

His defense could use plenty of improvement, but perhaps a new coaching system will change that.

Grade: A-

With the trading deadline behind us, everyone on the Los Angeles Lakers from Jordan Hill to Pau Gasol can now take a deep breath and focus on basketball. The team looks to snap its eight-game home losing streak, which is the longest in franchise history, against the Boston Celtics.

After trading Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers will welcome newly acquired players, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. Brooks and Bazemore have been rarely used this season. Brooks is only averaging 2.6 points per game in 17 games this season, while Bazemore is only averaging 2.3 points per game in 44 games.

The purpose of the trade was financial. Although the Lakers did not get under the luxury tax with the trade, they will save $3 million in taxes because of the move. It also helps that the Lakers can lock up Bazemore for a cheap price next year if he accepts the team’s qualifying offer.

While the Lakers are just now seeing that they need to rebuild (shelling out near $50 million to an aging veteran is not a sign of rebuilding), the Celtics have been on that road for awhile now. After parting ways with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the offseason, the team also made two trades in January and stocked up on more draft picks. In those trades, the C’s acquired Joel Anthony and Jeryd Bayless, who can both potentially come off the books after this season, thus freeing up more cap room.

These two teams are headed in the same direction this year, but the Celtics have done a better job building for the future as they potentially could have five draft picks over the next two years. They also will have plenty of more cap space and play in a weaker conference and have established a coach for the future in Brad Stevens. Keeping star point guard Rajon Rondo during the trade deadline also helps them establish a young core along with Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger going into next year.

The Lakers will have their hands full because of those four players tonight. After a slow start from his return from injury, Rondo has been more effective, averaging 15.2 points and 9.4 assists over the last five games. Green is the team’s leading scorer with 16.5 points per game and Sullinger has established himself as a solid option down low averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

The Celtics enter the game having lost two in a row after they won four of their first five games in February. They are in the midst of a four-game west coast swing. They lost their first game of the road trip to Phoenix.

Boston has had their struggles scoring this season as they have the fifth-worst shooting percentage (43.6 percent) and the third-worst 3-point percentage (33.1 percent).

The Lakers, on the other hand, enter the showdown against the Celtics having only won five games since December 21. One of those five wins came against the Celtics in Boston in mid-January. The Lakers won a thriller led by Kendall Marshall’s clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, 107-104, during their Grammy trip.

In fact, the Lakers have had their way against the Celtics as of late, winning five of their last six games against their biggest rival.

If the Lakers want to end their slump tonight, they will need to dictate the pace against a Celtics team that isn’t known for its offense, as mentioned above. They will also need to tighten up defensively and force the Celtics to take outside shots — something they haven’t been good at all year. The Lakers gave up 134 points to the Houston Rockets last time out despite shooting over 48 percent from the field in the loss.

Finally, Marshall needs to take the Blake trade as a vote of confidence. He needs to realize that he has officially earned playing time with the team. He’s not on the roster because of injuries anymore. He’s been playing extremely well (averaging 12.2 assists in the last five games) despite the team’s lack of success.

Other players who have stepped up for the Lakers recently are Chris Kaman (averaging 19.2 points in the last five games) and Jodie Meeks (averaging 19 points in the last five games).

 

 

Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  February 10, 2014

Just when we thought the injury bug was finally terminated, Steve Nash once again limped across the court in pain in a loss at home against the Chicago Bulls. Adding to the list of injuries are Jodie Meeks, Pau Gasol, and Nick Young.

The Lakers practiced with just eight guys today. Because of the injuries, they had to bring back Shawne Williams earlier this week. To put it short, the Lakers injury situation this season has been more terrifying than an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

That being said, they were able to muster two wins this week – albeit against two of the most atrocious teams in the league in Cleveland and Philadelphia. That said, a win’s a win and the Lakers will take it.

Because of the injuries, a player who would barely step foot on the court is finally getting some playing time and he’s making the most of it – Chris Kaman.

Over the last four games, Kaman is averaging 16 points per game, along with six rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and a +7.5 in just 21 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 56 percent over that span. Prior to this, Kaman hadn’t played since January 17, where he only received six minutes of action.

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What’s interesting is that Kaman, who has put up significantly better numbers than teammate Robert Sacre, has played in fewer games than the second-year center. No, he’s not Shaquille O’Neal, but it’s good to see Kaman finally get the playing time he deserves and it’s been paying dividends.

Only five other Lakers have played in each of the last four games – Kendall Marshall, Sacre, Ryan Kelly, Wes Johnson, and Steve Blake.

Blake has received monster minutes since his return from injury and like most point guards in Mike D’Antoni’s system, he has been solid. He’s averaging 8.3 assists in 38 minutes per game. However, rust has showed in his shooting as he’s just making 32 percent of his field goals attempts.

Marshall, another point guard who has thrived in D’Antoni’s system, has seen his minutes diminish ever since Nash’s return. Kendall played at least 35 minutes in every game in the 2014 calendar year. He saw his minutes slashed to the low 20’s the night Nash returned. He played 37 minutes as a result of Nash’s injury during Sunday’s game.

Despite his diminished playing time, Marshall continues to excel. He’s averaging 9.3 points and 7.8 assists per game along with a whopping 61 percent field goal percentage. Marshall’s dominance in limited time shows just how effective he can be off the bench. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares when he’s actually on a good team.

It’s pretty impressive that the Lakers were able to pull off one of their best weeks in recent memory with such a depleted roster. Kaman and Marshall, as mentioned above, had plenty to do with the Lakers’ success. The Lakers play two more games at home against Utah and Oklahoma City before getting a well-deserved All-Star break.

 

Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  February 2, 2014

As the Lakers continue to lose, the question shifts to Kobe Bryant and whether a return this season is even worth it. Bryant is still recovering from his injury and has repeatedly stated that he does want to play again this year.

But that’s Kobe’s opinion. Kobe is never going to back away from competition. He’s the same guy who wanted to play 48 minutes every game last season during the final stretch for the playoffs. In other words, Kobe’s decisions aren’t the most logical ones.

Resting Kobe means the Lakers could have their $50 million man return healthy next year for a new campaign. Why risk another injury during a meaningless season?

The Lakers have now lost 18 of their last 21 games and are just a half game ahead of the Sacramento Kings for dead last in the Western Conference. Though they have looked good in some of those losses offensively, their defense continues to be horrific. They have allowed triple digits in 14 consecutive games. Whether one blames the offensive-minded Mike D’Antoni or the injuries — it doesn’t matter because Kobe isn’t going to help bring that number down. Defense is a collective effort and just because Bryant will be hustling and playing defense it doesn’t mean the rest of the team will.

On this shorthanded team, there’s a good chance Kobe may try to do too much and put himself at risk for another injury. If he gets hurt once more, that’ll be three times in a 12-month span and that’s something nobody wants to see.

The Lakers have invested plenty of money in Kobe Bryant over the next two years. They saw what can happen already when they rush to bring him back. It would be wise to do what’s best for the team’s future and rest him. The positives outweigh the negatives heavily.

Regarding the players that are actually on the floor and playing for the Lakers, there are two guys who have continuously produced over the last month: Pau Gasol and Kendall Marshall.

Gasol seems to be realizing that he’s going to be looking for a new contract at the end of the year and he’s playing like a guy who’s going to be pursuing big money. In January, Gasol averaged 20.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.7 blocks. He’s been playing actively on both ends of the floor.

Meanwhile, Marshall looks like a player who may actually stick with the squad come next year. He recorded his eight and ninth double-doubles this week and is continuing to show that he could be an effective point guard in the NBA.

Speaking of point guards, the Lakers got good news this week as Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake, and Steve Nash all practiced. It’ll be interesting to see what Marshall’s role will be when all three of their point guards return to the court. But for now, he’s enjoying his starting minutes.

The Lakers brief home stand ended and they’ll head back on the road this week. They’ll do a back-to-back in Minnesota and Cleveland before finishing off the week in Philadelphia.

Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  January 25, 2014

Despite missing a chunk of the lineup and traveling across the entire Eastern seaboard in a week, the Los Angeles Lakers have to be extremely happy with how their Grammy road trip ended no matter what happens tomorrow afternoon in New York.

Think about it. At one point this week, the Lakers couldn’t do five-on-five drills during practice because only nine guys were healthy enough to practice. They had two sets of road back-to-backs. They’re giving regular minutes to two D-league players (Manny Harris and Kendall Marshall) and head coach Mike D’Antoni still refuses to give big boy minutes to his most efficient player, Jordan Hill.

After beating the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers lost a heartbreaker in overtime against the Chicago Bulls and went toe-to-toe against back-to-back champion Miami before running out of gas in Orlando. The Lakers have to be tired.

Of course, just saying giving the team an A for effort isn’t going to cut it. There are still several legitimate issues that could be taken care of — even with the depleted roster.

Let’s start with Jordan Hill’s playing time. The power forward has the third highest offensive rebound rate in the entire league yet he’s still only averaging 19.8 minutes per game. Heck, Shawne Williams who is no longer on the team still has a higher MPG than Hill.

Hill also has the highest PER on the Lakers – hovering over the 19 mark. This essentially means he’s the most efficient player on the Lakers, but he receives laughable playing time.

The reason why this is frustrating to see from afar is because the Lakers are the worst rebounding team in the league. When one looks at the basic stats, they see the Lakers rank 20th in rebounding – averaging 42.6 boards per game. However, the advanced stats tell the real story. The Lakers are dead last in rebounding percentage and grab only 46.9 percent of all rebounding opportunities.

This is how Tobias Harris gets 20 rebounds in a game and the Miami Heat, who are also an awful team on the glass, out-rebound the Lakers, 48-35.

When a team doesn’t get defensive rebounds, they give their opponent more chances to score. On the flip side, if they do get offensive rebounds, they get more opportunities to score. It’s a simple concept that shows how valuable rebounding is and one would think that if a team had the third best offensive rebounder in the game, he’d get more action.

Hill, however, got fewer minutes than Manny Harris last night.

The numbers show that Hill doesn’t get tired when he plays a lot. He’s played four games where he’s logged over 30 minutes and he averaged 12 rebounds. Also, in back-to-back situations he averages two more rebounds per game than he does after a day of rest. This isn’t to say that he should average 40 minutes per night, but perhaps a little bit more than the peanut minutes he’s getting right now would help the Lakers on the glass.

Other than this, every excuse regarding injuries is valid for the Lakers. They have been ravaged by the injury bug all season long and as a result, have been forced to play inexperienced players. Because of this, they have struggled mightily on defense. The Lakers haven’t held an opponent to fewer than 100 points in 11 games.

That said, they have to be happy with the effort and the surprising play of Kendall Marshall. Last night against Orlando, he dished out 14 assists and only had one turnover. He also added 19 points. Those are numbers elite point guards like Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo put up on a regular basis. Marshall still has a lot to learn — his defense is suspect and he turns the ball over too much — but if this continues, then Marshall may have locked up a spot for himself on the roster for the foreseeable future.

The Lakers finish up their Grammy trip against the Knicks tomorrow afternoon on ABC. They won’t have a welcome return home, though, as they take on one of the league’s best teams in the Indiana Pacers. The Lakers will close out the week at home against the Bobcats.

The Los Angeles Lakers made a furious rally late in the fourth quarter, but Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and the back-to-back defending champion Miami Heat held off the Purple and Gold and won, 109-102.

Bosh scored 31 and James added 27 as the Heat opened up a 16-point lead in the third quarter. However, the Lakers slowly chipped away at the lead and cut it to 98-94 with 4:09 remaining. A late LeBron three pointer with just over two minutes to go increased the Miami lead to 106-99 and the Heat never looked back from there.

There was a long stretch in the fourth quarter where the Heat would promptly respond to every Laker basket. Both teams were on fire. In fact, from the 5:56 mark of the fourth until the 1:39 point, neither team missed a shot. It was a remarkable display of up and down basketball by both teams and it was Miami’s rapid response to the Lakers’ clutch shooting that sealed the deal for the Heat.

For the Lakers, Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks (both big factors in the Lakers’ offensive burst in the fourth) each scored 22 points. Kendall Marshall added 11 assists but the Lakers as a whole did not do a great job moving the ball — only recording 21 assists on 40 field goals made. The team shot 36 percent from three point land – a figure that’s closer to their three point average when they lose (33 percent) than their three point average when they win (43 percent).

The most glaring stat of the game, though, was rebounds. The Lakers got murdered on the glass to an awful rebounding team, 48-35. While the Purple and Gold had more offensive rebounds than the Heat, the Heat were more efficient in getting offensive rebounds. Out of 34 rebound opportunities, the Heat had 12 offensive boards while the Lakers grabbed 13 on a whopping 49 opportunities.

As mentioned in the preview, the Heat may have the fewest rebounds per game, but it’s the Lakers that have the lowest rebounding percentage in the league. LeBron had 13 rebounds and absolutely dominated Wesley Johnson and anyone else that attempted to guard him throughout the game. Greg Oden, the oft-injured former No. 1 overall pick, also made his presence felt, getting four offensive rebounds. Meanwhile for the Lakers, Jordan Hill finally got some playing time and got seven rebounds in 22 minutes. Perhaps if he played more, the rebounding disparity may have shrunk because of Hill’s athleticism and rebounding skills.

At the end of the day, the Lakers actually played a solid game against an extremely superior opponent on the road. They fall to 2-3 on the road trip and have now lost eight of their last nine against Miami, but they hung in there and fought hard until the final whistle and that’s all Laker fans can ask from their team at this juncture. The Vegas spread was +11 and they covered it. They only had 11 turnovers, shot over 45 percent from the field, and even got on a little bit of a run at the end. Ultimately, it’s never easy beating the world’s greatest player and another All-Star especially when he’s on his game and the Lakers defense struggled badly against Bosh and James.

The Lakers now head to Orlando to take on the Magic before finishing off their Grammy road trip in the Big Apple.

The back-to-back NBA champion Miami Heat and the injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers are two teams heading in opposite directions and they’ll be squaring off in South Beach tonight at 5:00 p.m. on TNT.

Lakers Coming In: The Lakers come in to the game having lost 13 of their last 16 games. That said, they have won two of their last three and lost their last game at Chicago on a last second layup in overtime. The Lakers are 2-2 on their seven-game Grammy road trip and will play their next two games in the state of Florida before closing out the trip at Madison Square Garden.

Injury problems continued for the Lakers, who are already missing Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, and Xavier Henry. Pau Gasol missed practice yesterday and only nine Lakers practiced, which meant they were unable to do 5-on-5 drills.

The Lakers are thin, obviously, but it’s impressive how they continue to fight hard despite all the injury problems. Gasol has been incredible in January – averaging 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, Kendall Marshall and Ryan Kelly have both been on a tear, as well. During the road trip, Kelly is a +5.5 per game (highest on the team) and averaging 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Marshall, on the other hand, has continued to be an effective distributor – averaging 11.5 assists on the road trip. Miami doesn’t have the strongest back court in the world so expect Marshall to have another field day.

Finally, it seems like the Lakers have found a dependable lineup combination this month. The combination of Gasol-Kelly-Johnson-Meeks-Marshall has been a +19 in 56 minutes this month. It’s the most effective and most used lineup combination for the Lakers in January. What’s interesting is that when the Lakers replace Kelly with Robert Sacre in the same lineup combination, the numbers fall drastically (-43 in 50 minutes in January). This exemplifies Kelly’s strong play throughout the month.

Heat Coming In: The Miami Heat are well on their way to at least another Eastern Conference Final appearance in the weak East. That being said, they’ve lost four of their last seven and are now four games behind the Indiana Pacers for the No. 1 seed in the East.

We won’t see Dwyane Wade tonight as the guard continues to rest.

That last sentence essentially tells us what the Heat really care about – the playoffs. They know that there is no point to play their oft-injured star in a meaningless regular season game when they know they need him healthy for May and June.

This may bode well for the Lakers. The Heat struggle without Wade in the lineup and are only 6-6. With him on the floor, they’re 24-6.

With Wade out, we will see plenty of LeBron and Chris Bosh. James has had another incredible year, averaging 26.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.5 assists. The “6.7 rebounds” is nice for James, but it’s also glaring for the team as a whole. James is the leading rebounder with just 6.7 rebounds. The Heat are the worst rebounding team in the league, averaging just 36.5 rebounds per game.

Head-to-Head: The Heat have beaten the Lakers in seven of their last eight meetings. These two teams squared off on Christmas Day and the Lakers played the Heat close before succumbing in the last half of the fourth quarter. The Heat shot 51.3 percent from the field in that game and won, 101-95.

Miami also grabbed 43 rebounds in that game – their second highest rebounding total of the season. The Lakers may have Gasol and Jordan Hill on their roster, but they’re actually a pathetic rebounding team as a whole. The team may rank 18th in the league in total rebounding, but they’re dead last in rebound percentage. This means they lose plenty of rebound battles. Hill’s diminishing minutes with the team may have something to do with this, so it’ll be interesting to see how much Mike D’Antoni plays him against a poor rebounding opponent.

If the Lakers want to have a chance in this game, they’re going to have to prevent the Heat from getting easy shots. They shoot an NBA best 64 percent from 0-8 feet. However, they’re just an average mid-range shooting team and with Wade out, the Lakers can stay in the game if they force the Heat to take low percentage shots and clean up the glass when they miss. That’s not an easy task, but it’s possible.

On the other end of the court, the Lakers need to continue to move the ball well. They have an AST% of 65.4 percent in January and that’s a testament to Marshall’s great play. When the Lakers move the ball well, they get good looks from three point land. When they get good looks from three point land, they make a lot of threes. When they make a lot of threes, they win.

Though that sounded like a DIRECTV commercial, it’s true. In wins this season, the Lakers shoot 43 percent from downtown compared to just 33 percent in losses. Three pointers are a big part of the Lakers game and it all starts with solid ball movement.

The Spread: The Heat are 11 point favorites. With Wade out and the Lakers playing motivated basketball, it’s not too farfetched to believe that the Lakers can cover the spread.