Records: Lakers 14-3 (1st in West) Heat 10-8 (5th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.5 (14th in league) Heat 105.8 (20th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.2 (2nd in league) Heat 106.2 (15th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Heat: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley, Jermaine O’Neal
The Lakers Coming in: I think we need to make a distinction when we talk about the Lakers (this came up in the comments): We need to distinguish between the “bench play” — when Odom, Farmar and Brown play parts of the second quarter — and what commenter chibi has trademarked as the “Taco Unit,” the group that includes everyone and blows leads in the fourth quarter.
Against the Hornets Tuesday, the Lakers started to pull away with the bench guys in during the second, a group that is mixed with some starters. The Taco Unit blew a lot of that lead — and almost the tacos — in the fourth quarter. We just need to look at these situations separately.
Aside that, this stat from the Elias Sports Bureau sums it up: Only one other team in NBA history has scored at least 100 points and held their opponents under 100 points for seven straight games. Now, to burst your bubble a little, that team was the 200-01 Milwaukee Bucks.
The Heat Coming in: This is cool: Check out the Blue Note themed Heat roster video.
This has been an inconsistent Heat team — they beat Orlando and Denver earlier in the season (not last night, they got thumped), but then almost gave New Jersey a win. Maybe that’s to be expected with young players like Chalmers and Beasley in key roles, but still they have Wade and Jermaine O’Neal (who, stunningly, has both looked good at times and already missed time due to injury).
That means as much as ever, the Heat are asking Wade to step up and take on more. Especially in the fourth quarter — like Kobe last year the Heat look to get everyone involved early but late it is all Wade all the time. But Wake is not as efficient a shooter this season as he has been in years past — he is shooting 45% (eFG%) and while he is still getting to the line (10 FTA a game) his True Shooting Percentage is 52%, two points below the league average.
Part of the reason for the Heat’s inconsistency is they shoot a lot of long-two jumpers. They take six fewer shots per game at the rim than the average NBA team but make up for that by shooting more jumpers, three more per game from 16 feet to the three point line, than the average team. Of course, the long two is the least efficient shot in basketball.
One of the Heat’s biggest weaknesses is their bench — they get fewer points per game from the bench than any team in the NBA (according to ESPN Statistics). That was evident again last night, when after a tight first quarter the deep Nuggets just pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back.
What the Heat try to do on defense should remind people of the Showtime Lakers teams — defend the paint and get back in transition. Basically, take away the easy baskets and tempt the other team to be jump shooters. However, they don’t defend in the paint all that well, especially if you have bigs who can pass and motion in the offense. (Which the Lakers have.)
Blogs and links: The True Hoop Network has Hot Hot Hoops covering the Heat.
Fitting with out theme earlier today, here’s another little trip down memory lane.
Keys to game: What the Heat do on offense is not a surprise, but that doesn’t make it that easy to stop: It’s a lot of pick-and-rolls and isolations for Wade. On the picks the Lakers bigs need to show out consistently and not let Wade turn the corner with a head of steam. Rotations from the bigs to keep the paint full of long arms also will be key. When Wade sits (and also when he is in, just not as often) it’s a lot of isolations for Beasley, particularly out on the wing. Good game for the strong side zone when that happens.
While those two drive, the rest of the Heat spread the floor as spot up shooters. The Lakers need to be careful about who they leave open.
Richardson, a solid defender, will get the Kobe assignment. Richardson did well on the slumping Brandon Roy the other night. The Heat love to trap the other team’s primary ball handler (especially off picks) so Kobe needs to be aware and make the smart pass.
Finally, as always, the Heat may be athletic but they do not match up with the Lakers inside. Pound the ball in on offense and the Lakers should get some easy buckets.
Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, you can choose between Fox Sports or ESPN, and on 710 ESPN radio.