The Heat are floundering.
Five consecutive losses, especially of the variety that the Heat have had, can put any team on tilt. Stories like Cry-Gate or deeper examinations of your best players’ clutch performances just make the hole deeper. But this is now the reality for the Heat. When a team is one of the predetermined league powers and labeled a contender both internally by the players and management as well as externally by the national media, this group will be put under a larger microscope.
These current circumstances create added meaning for tomorrow’s match up between the Lakers and the Heat. If one person understands that best, it’s Kobe Bryant. In a blog post by Kevin Ding, Kobe sums up tomorrow’s game quite well:
“It’s a perfect setup for them to get back on track,” Bryant said. “They have no option but to fight, to play their hearts out. It’s going to be a big challenge for us. They’ve lost five games in a row now. They’re looking at this game as a game that’s going to turn things around for them.”
Bryant said he was interested to see the Lakers’ ability to meet that challenge and wanted the team to begin mentally preparing Tuesday night. In the immediate aftermath of the team’s victory over Atlanta, that was the discussion inside the locker room: Miami is up next.
The Lakers lost on Christmas to the Heat, 96-80, but Bryant expected Miami’s turmoil to create greater motivation for the Heat than the Lakers’ revenge angle.
“You have to draw on something else, “Bryant said, “because their intensity level is going to be much higher because of what’s going on.”
However, after reading what Kobe said, I still wonder: what does this game actually mean for both sides?
Personally, I’m not sure.
Yes, it’s a big game. Whether you’re just looking at the talent on the court or dig deeper into any of the storylines leading up the contest, this is a game that all the players want to win and one that the fans have great interest in. I mean, will Miami continue to spiral downward? Can the Lakers continue their hot streak? What will a win do the Heat’s psyche? What if they lose? These questions and many others will be focused on incessantly today, tomorrow, and in the aftermath of the game.
But, in that aftermath I still wonder what this single contest will really mean. Over at the Heat Index, John Krolik penned a great piece on LeBron’s performance in past regular seasons and how they have little correlation to the success his team has experienced in the post season.
Meanwhile, we’re all quite familiar with how single games (or even long stretches of games) can have little impact on what we see from the Lakers in the future. Don’t believe me? Look to last year’s closing stretch before the playoffs. For more evidence, look to two weeks ago today where the Lakers were coming off a win over the Hawks but had lost their previous three games including one to the Cavs. How awful did the team look then? And how do they look now?
The other side is, as mentioned earlier, both teams surely want to win. And for obvious reasons. As Kobe stated, the Heat would love for nothing more than to turn their season around, or at the very least get out from under their rock of being labled losers, at the expense of the world champs. They’ve got real strides to make, not much time to make them, and this game could be the gigantic springboard that gets them moving back in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are on a roll and surely want that to continue. Winning 8 games in a row is no time to slow down, but rather a time to push harder. The schedule does not get easier and, if anything, it only gets harder with Dallas waiting on Saturday and a date with Orlando scheduled for Monday. Plus, the revenge angle is real. If you thought fans’ Christmases were ruined by that drubbing the Heat handed out, imagine how the players felt. Or the coaches. Now is the time not only for payback, but for message sending that there is one “team to beat” and they wear the visiting team jerseys.
All that said, I still wonder if this game really carries all that much meaning. Maybe for post-season positioning if (and that’s a big if) both teams make it to the Finals. Maybe from a psychological standpoint. But beyond that,it may be that the biggest winners and losers that come out of this game are the fanbases that support each team. I know I care. You do to. And of course the players do. But down the line will we remember this game more than the Spurs game or the OKC game or any of the other “big” games this team has played or will play this year? I truly don’t know either way. What do you think?
I believe tomorrow’s game means a lot to the Lakers. The “switch” is on, and now it’s time to see how we stack up against the Heat. The Heat are wounded, and desperate like an injured bear cornered. They will come out firing tomorrow and I for one, am a little worried. I’m glad Kobe has the proper mindset and I’m sure he’ll marshal his troops tomorrow.
If the Lakers lose, there has to be a small seed of doubt planted in their minds because if you remember, places like ESPN refer to the top FOUR teams (which specifically excludes the Lakers) so they can have the convenient Miami’s win percentage is 0 against the Celts, Spurs, Chicago, Dallas. If they can beat the Heat, what’s wrong with us if we can’t?
I totally understand the non-binding nature of regular season performances, but this one matters tomorrow.
Steve Blake is getting face time I’m sure he would prefer not.
What this game means to the Lakers is a W or L in the standings. No more and no less. But given the race for HCA it does mean a lot that way – that it is against the Heat is basically irrelevant.
For the Heat, I think this game is huge. A win makes everyone shut up for a while. It takes the pressure off. A loss and the bombardment continues.
If the Lakers win, I will be really impressed…and just a little surprised.
This is a highly important game to both parties. To make up further ground on Dallas, the Lakers must win these next three games. This is a statement they should have made right before the All-Star, that we are the champions and we can not be defeated once we put our minds to winning. They have to not only beat the teams they should, but they also have to win the tough games.
They won the tough games prior to the All-Star and then lost the games that they shouldn’t. This is (in a very short window) time for redemption. If they put an 11 game win streak on everyone’s mind, then worry will start to creep into the other camps because they will have won against the top contenders and then showed enough concentration to win the trap games “too” (in reference to your last paragraph).
Dallas is in range. We are only two games behind them. If we win the next three there’s a chance we catch them. Both teams need this game; equally, no (Miami really needs this game), but both need to win none the less.
P. Ami says
This game is important in so much as it effects playoff seeding. I doubt very highly that the Lakers will meet the Heat again until next season, so issues about who is more confident is moot
The Lakers can catch everybody ahead of them but the Spurs. If that is the only series they go into without home court, I will feel a bit better about the chances for another 3-Peat. That is the only context in which a win tomorrow is important to me.
Miami’s win percentage is 0 against the Celts, Spurs, Chicago, Dallas. If they can beat the Heat, what’s wrong with us if we can’t?
The answer to that question depends on whether or not you think it matters that we can and have beaten those four teams.
This is the most important game of the year for the Miami heat, so I expect them to play like it’s a do or die playoff game.
I think the Lakers need to at least show they can match up with Miami (even if they lose) because that Christmas day game suggested the Lakers might have serious match up problems agains the Heat.
Oh, and to answer Darius’ last question in the blog: I think this game matters a lot tomorrow, as a kind of trial by fire for the Heat and as a heat check for the Lakers. I think this game won’t matter very much at all after tomorrow, once it’s over it will becomes just another regular season game to put behind you as you move on towards the next opponent.
All drama aside, I think both teams understand that this game is a contrast in styles and match-up challenge.
Also, that bleacherreport article says more about the author’s powers of discernment than about steve blake’s shooting.
It’s ridiculous that one would even link to that.
Setting aside the playoff positioning aspect – in that regard it’s a crucial game for both teams – I think the Heat have a lot more riding on the outcome. If the Lakers lose, it’s a definite disappointment and a dent in the momentum of this post All-Star break run, but these guys are secure enough in themselves to bounce back from that kind of setback.
With the Heat, it seems like any kind of adversity has them on the verge of a meltdown. A 6-game losing streak capped off with a loss in a nationally-televised marquee matchup could push them over the edge. Also, their upcoming schedule is pretty tough: they host Memphis, San Antonio, and OKC before heading to Atlanta. You don’t want to go into that stretch on the back of 6 straight losses.
As long as Kobe doesn’t play like he has to prove something, they should be fine.
kwame a. says
As long as Bynum keeps patrolling the paint and dominating the glass, I don’t mind if we lose tomorrow or any single loss for that matter. Bynum playing this defense is what we need to 3-peat
J.D. Hastings says
Looking at the state of the Heat I want to call it unprecedented but can’t really. L.A. has most of it’s losses this year as part of 3 or 4 game losing streaks. In the midst of each, it was befuddling to wonder what was going on and seemed like they needed a break to figure some things out (They actually got one with the All Star Game, and it apparently helped a lot).
Beyond that, L.A. and Boston struggled last year. They were both aging champions though, while the Heat are, theoretically in their primes (3 of them anyways). Untested contenders have had disastrous stretches in the past, but they tend to be forgotten or dismissed as contenders after the fact as contenders.
The Heat themselves have been considered unprecedented, though that’s debatable. The continued media frenzy around them, though, does seem to be a new mark. They have full press conferences seemingly after every game? They need a break, but they are less likely to get it than anyone before.
L.A. needs to make sure not to let Miami find their legs against them, though even when Miami breaks out of this funk this season, I think they’ll continue to struggle to adapt until next season (if there is one). The summer, and subsequent moving on by the media, will give them the breathing room to define themselves better. Next year is another beast entirely I think. (Same for New York).
It’s a big game for the Lakers because it bears on HCA. They will be lucky to finish third overall this season (SA and even the Celtics are out of reach for practical purposes if not mathematically). Finishing forth or lower probably makes their road to the title that much harder.
How much does it mean to the players? Well, we know Kobe has to want it.
As a fan, I’m interested in seeing if the Miami Heat melt down continues apace.
T. Rogers says
The Lakers need every win they can get. Period. It doesn’t matter if they are playing a YMCA senior squad. They need to catch Dallas. Plus, they need to get some payback for Christmas. That game was pathetic and the Lakers owe it to themselves to cut Miami’s heart out.
J.D. Hastings says
What will be really fun will be to see how much Drew’s newfound love of defense can disrupt the Heat’s offense. If the team is smart they’ll use Drew on both ends, but I think we’re all wise enough not to expect too much on that front. Pau v. Bosh should be fun too.
” But down the line will we remember this game more than the Spurs game or the OKC game or any of the other “big” games this team has played or will play this year? ”
For me, yes, absolutely.
I haven’t forgotten the Xmas loss to Shaq and Wade in 2004, or the one from 2007 where we got whupped by the Celtics (the one with the tight shorts). And I certainly will remember the steaming pile they left on court last year.
Because of the way the team stunk up the court on Xmas Day, I feel they owe me, and (more importantly) themselves, one.
I hope to god the Lakers continue their streak, but if I were betting my own money, I’d say double digit Miami win.
Phil just had to stir s*** up at the worst time…
Let’s hope I’m wrong!!!!
Nothing would please me more than to have Drew limit Bosh to less than 10 points and rebounds and to have Ron Ron kill (figuratively) Lebron all night. I would also love for our second unit to outscore the Heat starters. Is this too much to ask?
Please let us not have foul trouble tomorrow.
And even if we do, please let the refereeing be consistent throughout the game – for both sides.
It’s odd; True Hoop claims the Heat overdribble more than anybody, yet my memory of the XMAS game is they were moving the ball really, really well.
Every game at this point of the season is important. If a season was a game, we’re in the 3rd quarter and now possessions and fouls start to loom bigger.
The fact that this is against the Heat does add more importance in that it will truly test our defense. For all the talk about LeBron and Wade and Bosh, they are all pretty good scorers and even if they do lack a middle game compared to Bryant, it doesn’t mean that they can’t heat up and expose our defense.
It will be one thing to stop the Hawks with our defense, quite another to douse the Heat. Surely they’re not playing as well as they should, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t… and statistically (part of the reason why I don’t really value stats) they’re DUE, especially Bosh.
And let’s not forget what a 9, 10, 11 game win streak would do to our record, especially our record against good teams…
No NBA team can stop LBJ or Wade from getting theirs when they get the majority of the shots. Its about containing the rest of the team from getting in rhythm and hitting shots. I doubt LeMan and Wobin will come up short on motivation to end a streak of doom, but how will Miller, Chalmers, Bosh and the rest of the crew respond to the pressure and adversity. For that simple reason I am looking for LA to come out and represent in South Beach.
We’re so lucky we didn’t get Miller, not just because he’s struggling this year, but that would have probably meant no Matt Barnes and no Steve Blake. We’re lucky not to have traded Bynum for all those people we were rumored to be in talks for…Carmelo…Bosh (going back to last season). Sometimes, it’s the deals you don’t make. And that’s allowed this current squad time to develop chemistry. Miami…who knows? Maybe if you gave them another season or so they could jell and become dominant? Anyway, for now, it’s good to be a Laker’s fan.
Could the clippers actually win in Boston tonight?
I`ll be very surprised if the Lakers win Thurs. Miami will probably look at it as a game7,while the Lakers look ahead to Dallas,who they might face again the playoffs. But there is always a chance Miami will choke again in the 4th if the LA can keep it close with 4or 5min left.
Igor Avidon says
Anybody else watching the Clips game? Their announcers are terrible. Does everything about that organization stink? (aside from Blake)
Holy Cow! Turned on the Clipper game at the beginning of the 4th and the Celtics looked like they had a pick up team from the Y out there. Man, they overhauled that roster.
Chicago may be the best team in the East now, unless the Celtics play the big four 48 minutes a game.
Igor Avidon says
Boozer hurt his leg tonight, that will hurt their chances against the other top teams.
Igor, hadn’t seen the news about Boozer – what a huge bummer for them. They are the team I was rooting for in the East.
Sadly, my prediction for tomorow is that kobe goes 1 v 5 and tries to out do the big 3 cry babies.
Something about lebron brings put the worst in kobe.
#24 – the Lakers have always been successful with the deals they don’t make, going back to 1986 when everyone was howling for swapping James Worthy for Ralph Sampson.
IN the previuos thread I said that the Miami Heat “lost” that game against Portland and did not use the word “loss’ instead, because I believe that the game against Portland was for Miami to loose considering that heartbreak loss to Chicago and the subsequent cry-gate at the locker room people would normally come out with fire and enthusiasm to win the next game. But as it turned out the Miami Heat came out flat and loss the game to Portland.
Tomorrow’s game does not worry me as I believe that the Lakers will crush this Heat team. The morale of the Heat team is very low while the Lakers are on a roll.
32 – not to mention talk of Byron Scott and Worthy for Mark Aguirre and a PF that ended up with a curtailed career via drug abuse.
The Dude Abides says
Miracle comeback by NOLA to defeat the Dallas Mavericks!!! 😀
magic days says
Now if only Detroit can pull off a miracle comback to defeat the Spurs, the Lakers will have made strides in the rankings without even playing a game. That would be sweet.
Nice one by dallas
The Mavs loss tonight was timed perfectly cause it coincides with this Post. A victory tomorrow night on South Beach just became that much more important.
Wow perfect night for LA, and we didn’t play:
-Dallas lost, as others have pointed out
-Memphis lost, which is good as I’d rather they stay the 8th seed if we move up to the 2nd
I think tomorrow’s game is important psychologically, but not for our players – it’s more for the fanbases, as Darius said.
Forgive me if others have already made this point (and I’m pretty sure many have), but Miami is where they are primarily because they are a 3-man team offensively, and oftentimes a two and a half or even two-man team. Seriously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a team made of 3 all-stars and the rest garbage/past-their prime and the heat, imo, are maybe even OVER-achieving. They have the defense, they have Bron and Dwade, but they have no post-presence, they have no real supporting players, like the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Mavs, etc. Hence, what they should have maybe done was decline on Bosh and instead used the money for his contract towards better supporting guys, like Gerald Wallace and/or Al Jefferson and or stolen away Kevin Love or something or or any other number of guys who could average 10-15 points and/or score in the post and rebound. I think a lot of are surprised because we got sucked into the media hype, and that ridiculous “coming out” party the Heat through to introduce the 3 musketeers to South Beach and the World.
The Dude Abides says
@41. My #1 wish this postseason: Lakers win it all.
My #2 wish is that the Knicks beat Miami in the 1st round. Once that has been accomplished, must make sure that Boston doesn’t win it all.
I don’t care how pumped Miami is during tomorrow’s game, this game is for the Lakers to lose. We’ve been on a roll because of defense (Andrew) and points in the paint (all of them, really). We have a clear advantage in the front court tomorrow. Don’t make it a running match. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami started fast tomorrow, but we are in too much of a sync to let their lead get to double digits. We should take a page from Portland’s book. They played steady for all 48 minutes and didn’t let Miami go on any big runs. I’d love for Kobe to be a distributor tomorrow and not go out to prove he’s still better than LeBron and Wade. I’m hoping for a 20 point, 13 assist game from him.
you’re right darius. this game is mostly for the fans. and tnt. if not, it wouldn’t be in prime time and on national tv. it matters more to the heat because of their funk. it matters to the lakers because of christmas day. but after it’s over, unless one team comes out looking poor, or a great game that goes down to the buzzer that will be remembered beyond the 24 bbal/sportscenter/talk radio cycle, it will be forgotten. and the lakers will play in dallas on saturday. our road back to the finals we all know is in the west and likely matchups against the spurs, mavs and thunder. i won’t worry about the heat until june, and i rather doubt they have what it takes to beat the c’s or the bulls, and maybe even the carmelo and amare knicks 4x in 7 games. let’s face it, against really good teams, the heat aren’t very good. that won’t change, regardless of what happens tomorrow.
I think it was Woj that wrote how big a cancer LeBron was in the 2006 team and that there was serious talk about leaving him off the team.
That’s showing now. Miami isn’t the 2008 Olympics team with Kobe and Kidd being able to provide a role model or a ‘big brother.’ With just Wade and Bosh, it will probably fare just as well as the 2006 team, which lost despite having the best talent in the world. Miami will likely follow the same blueprint – greater talent, but no championship.
It could all be remedied, of course. All it takes I think is for Wade or LeBron to get it and say that they’ll come off the bench. That will set a certain pecking order streamline strategy, practice and everything else. At least they’ve made some progress by blatantly leaving Bosh out now… except that Bosh is now miffed. Hah.
Are you talking about the great Roy Tarpley????!!!!
In Phil speak “We will trade Caracter for Bosh”.
42 – Nah Knicks fans are annoying enough as it is. They’re convinced they have a great franchise history just because of their city, even though they’ve rarely been successful. They’re already talking trash even though they’ve accomplished so little. They’d be awful to deal with if they knocked off the Heat.
Part of me does want to see the Heat-Knicks rivalry renewed though, just for old times sake. But I’d rather see Chicago-Miami or Boston-Miami.
@ 44 busboys4me – that’s right, it was Tarpley!
Watch the screen Durant comes off of at the very beginning of that video. It’s so far beyond a moving screen, I don’t even know what to call it. It looks like the screen-setter was trying to bowl over the entire Sixers roster.
Man, the refs let you get away with anything at the end of close games…
totally OT, but I’m having trouble with the big buildup to the DRose for MVP avalanche.
he’s not shooting all that well (44%, 33% ), and his A/T ratio is not that great – he’s third in the L for most TO! (in our fantasy league, I have no chance in the TO category most weeks with Rose, KD and Griffin on my team.)
51 – Yeah he’s not a typical MVP candidate, that’s for sure. Mostly people are going off the Bulls record (how he had them winning w/o Noah and Boozer). But as Zach Lowe has repeatedly said, Thibodeau is more of a COY candidate than Rose is MVP. It’s Thibodeau’s coaching that’s had as much of an impact on their record as Rose.
On the other hand, I’m struggling to come up with other MVP candidates. Definitely not Amare. KD started off the year slow. Lebron has the numbers, but his team is flailing right now. So I’m not sure who would make the best candidate. I’m probably missing someone obvious.
LeBron and Wade will get through to the basket, the key might be how the referees call them jumping into people. It will be on Bynum and Gasol to jump straight up and not bring their arms down, as both Heat players tend to get a lot of these type of calls. If both have to finish over the Lakers bigs or resort to jumpers, I think we’ll be good.
It’d be great to see the offense running through the post a lot. That means Gasol and Bynum, but also Kobe and maybe Artest once the Heat go small with LeBron playing the 4, and maybe Miller defending Artest.
The way the Lakers won the last couple of games reminded me a little bit of the Spurs, in a good way. For the most part, they didn’t try to go on any fancy runs. They just kept pounding away until the opponent gave in a little. If they do that against the Heat and don’t get into foul trouble, they should break the Heat’s spirit in the second half.
Only other MVP candidate besides Rose I can think of is Dwight Howard. To me it’s a toss up between Rose and Howard.
Yeah Snoop I have the same feeling that there’s another MVP candidate out there.
Maybe somebody whose won before, but has been robbed in the past as well?
Maybe somebody who doesn’t cultivate the media as carefully as … some?
Maybe somebody whose been the best or second best player on 5 Championship teams?
I still think Kobe ought to have 1 or 2 more MVPs… and why not this year?
If the Lakers finish of the season strong, hasn’t he been guiding a veteran team back to prime position for another run at the championship?
When the ship was sinking, he kept his cool, none of the small rumblings ever grew to a storm… and now the Lakers seem to have the perfect timing for kicking it into gear.
He has given up some stats for the team, and really seems to be the key to everyones game.
I think he deserves the MVP as much as anyone.
Good column on the Lakers/Heat
Chris D says
Who do I think should win it: Kobe or Rose. Yes, LA has had a somewhat strange season, but as we all know by now, it’s hard to get fired up about anything pre-April when you’ve been to 3 straight Finals and won the last two. Especially if the Lakers round the season well, with Kobe avg like 25-6-6 why not?
Who will probably win it: Rose. He seems the sentimental favorite and especially if the Bulls either stay 2nd or do the unthinkable and pip BOS to 1st in the East, it’d be hard to make a case as to why he shouldn’t get it
Extremely disappointing. The lakers collapsed down the stretch. They did so many things wrong in the forth. Although officials basically allowed Wade to hit kobe on every shot attempt, he still didn’t help the situation by trying to go one on one in the fourth. The bench came in to start the fourth and continued their recent terribleness.
This game absolutely proved why bynum absolutely has to finish every single game. Lamar and Gasol are not a presence at the rim whatsoever. Has Gasol’s hamstring issues over the past 2 seasons completely diminished his explosion and quickness on the defensive end. Gasol is so slow contesting shots. Even when he’s there he doesn’t alter shots. The lakers also ran to many isolations for artest and he came up empty every time.
I thought fisher was bad in the second half as well. He took way to many hero shots as Doc would call them and he only made that one contested 3. The lakers overall played okay defense in the second half but completely forgot how when defend towards the end of the 3rd quarter. And the icing on the cake they were out rebounded by 9. In the end it was winnable but continued to miss opportunities.