For a Finals rematch, I have incredibly little to say about today’s matchup between the Lakers and the Heat. Some of that is Miami related as they’re still working to dig themselves out of an early season hole that saw COVID related absences and injury ravage their roster and keep them without their normal lineup for weeks at a time. With Jimmy Butler now back in the lineup, the Heat have started to play better of late, but the results are still mixed and at 12-17 and 10th in the East they still have a lot of work to do.
As for the Lakers, I don’t have a lot to say about them either right now. AD remains out with his strained calf/achilles tendinosis. Dennis Schöder is also out due to the league’s health and safety protocols. The team has lacked it’s top gear for anything longer than a quarter or so at a time for weeks and could really use some time off. The all-star break really can’t come soon enough, but with a stretch of games vs. good teams on the horizon, there is no rest for the weary.
Wen it comes to tonight’s game, then, I have few expectations for either side. Maybe the Heat come out extra motivated to avenge their Finals loss. Maybe the Lakers, after practicing yesterday, look more prepared to play without Schröder who was such a late scratch vs. the Nets. Maybe we get a really good game with both teams playing hard and engaged. Maybe a Bron/Jimmy duel awaits. I don’t necessarily expect this, but it’s the NBA — anything can happen.
If you’re looking for a real prediction, I expect mostly what I’ve seen from the Lakers of late: they play well when Bron is in the game, struggle to score when he’s not, and are hit/miss defensively with a few too many mistakes for my liking. I think their rim protection issues continue and that there’s reason to worry about the defensive glass when both bench units are in the game.
If diving into the specifics of the matchups, I think Bam vs. Marc will be something to watch with Trez potentially needing to do some heavy lifting in that matchup before the night is over. I think Kuz’s defense will be important vs. Duncan Robinson and, in some minutes, vs. Jimmy and that Wes will need to hit some shots tonight for the offense to get going. It’d be nice if KCP joined him, but he’s in such a funk, predicting a turnaround for him is a fools errand. At some point he’ll play better, but we’re just going to have to see it first.
Again, the Lakers just aren’t that great of a team right now. Miami isn’t either, but they’re closer to full strength (even with Dragic and Avery Bradley out) and have some motivation to fuel them this game. The Lakers, unfortunately, just don’t have that same battery to put in their back and push them forward.
That’s no knock on them, either. They’re banged up and it’s the dog days before a break that awaits them in a week and a half. It’s not that they’re checked out, but you can see the strain in their game right now and the joy is noticeably absent. Everything seems hard and that’s no way to have to defend a championship.
I hate to sound so morose. My long term outlook for this team hasn’t really changed all that much, but I’m much more interested in what this team looks like in a month than overly concerned about what they are right now. That said, it’s right now’s version that has to play this game and if their recent level holds, no result tonight would surprise me.
Where you can watch: 5:30pm start time on ABC.