Lakers: Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley, Kent Bazemore, Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan
Heat: Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, PJ Tucker, Bam Adebayo
Lakers: LeBron James (out), Talen Horton-Tucker (out), Trevor Ariza (out), Kendrick Nunn (out), Rajon Rondo (questionable), Austin Reaves (questionable)
Heat: Markieff Morris (out), Victor Oladipo (out), Tyler Herro (questionable), Bam Adebayo (questionable)
The Lakers won a thriller of a game against the Hornets on Monday; a game replete with runs from both teams, another 4th quarter blown lead from the Lakers, but an OT period that saw the team find some poise and timely baskets (and defensive stops) to get a win. This will hopefully build some confidence, but beyond that, offer some positive vibes for a group desperately in need of them. Particularly with the Heat coming to town tonight looking to keep their strong start going.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time telling you why Miami is good. That much, honestly, should be obvious. The team that went to the Finals two seasons ago replaced Goran Dragic with Kyle Lowry, Jae Crowder with PJ Tucker, and still has Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro. Oh, and they’re coached by Erik Spoelstra. For all the thoughts that this team would “take it easy” during the regular season in order to peak during the playoffs, the total ass-hole/competitiveness of the Butler/Lowry duo hasn’t really allowed that. This team defends hard, gets out in transition, and has enough variety in the halfcourt to give your set defense fits.
The Lakers, then, will need to compete hard, but winning the game just isn’t very likely. We don’t yet know how much their injury report will limit who’s available, but we do know who will be out for the Lakers. So, even if the Heat are down Bam and Herro (which seems unlikely to me), the Lakers are too banged up here with the guys who are already out, to say nothing that Reaves and Rondo are now suddenly questionable to play as well.
In the end, then, I’m not sure I have much tactical or schematic advice here. If the Lakers are going to win they’re going to need to defend as well as they have all season, find a way to be extremely hot from the outside, and have high level and efficient games from both AD and Russ. After that, they’ll need at least one of Jimmy or Lowry to play poorly, have Herro only be “okay” and not have Robinson go off. That’s a lot of things working in the Lakers favor in a season where, honestly, not a lot has.
This isn’t meant to sound as pessimistic as it reads, though. The Heat are a really good team and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they’re in the conference finals, if not the NBA finals, this season. Their ceiling is that high. The Lakers, meanwhile, are banged up and not there yet. But, reinforcements are coming. THT is cleared for contact, Bron won’t be out forever, and we’re coming up on the window in which we should expect an update on Nunn soon, too. In other words, it won’t be bad forever. Even though it’s very likely to be bad tonight.