To say that these two teams appear to be going in opposite directions would be an understatement. The Heat, winners of 5 straight and 7 of their last 8 games, enter the contest coming off an overtime victory at home over the Atlanta Hawks. The Lakers, meanwhile, just lost Kobe Bryant for the foreseeable future, and their season reached perhaps a new low point on Monday night when they lost by 27 against the Phoenix Suns following a 19 point loss just two days earlier against the Golden State Warriors.
The Heat sit a game and a half out of first in the Eastern Conference, while the Lakers sit two and a half games out of the eight seed in the Western Conference.
These two teams haven't met yet this season, but for whatever this is worth (see: very little), the Heat have not lost a game to a Western Conference opponent yet this season.
Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers figure to be led by some combination of Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry and Nick Young, and I can honestly say that I never thought I would have to type a sentence like that in my lifetime.
Outside of the talent gap that exists between these two teams right now, the Lakers just don't particularly match up well against Miami like they have in the past.
One advantage the Lakers used to have over the Heat was their size, but that isn't the case anymore. The Heat rank 27th in the NBA in rebound rate, which is the percentage of missed shots a team rebounds. The Lakers rank 30th.
So far this season, the Lakers are playing at the 3rd highest pace in the league, averaging 99.4 possessions per game. The Heat, meanwhile, play at a relatively average pace, averaging 95.8 possessions per game, good for 18th in the league. Perhaps the reason the Lakers like to speed up the pace is because they aren't particularly efficient on the offensive side of the ball - they rank 22nd in offensive efficiency, at 100.4 points per 100 possessions. The Heat rank 2nd at 109.6 points per 100 possessions. While the Lakers may look to speed things up, that strategy might actually come back to bite them unless they can find a way to execute in the half court. Giving the Heat more possessions is rarely a good strategy.
Perhaps the most important question is which member of the Lakers LeBron will try and dunk on, seeing as he appears to have made it a personal mission to throw down on at least one member of the opposition nightly. Sorry, Paul Millsap and Ben McLemore. Since he seems to enjoy dunking on people who's last name starts with the letter M, I want to be the first to alert Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Dwyane Wade is expected to be back in action for this one, although I wouldn't expect to see him Friday against Sacramento with Portland looming on Saturday.
- The Heat will be wearing these during the game, and apparently, they aren't too happy about that.
- The Heat have won four straight Christmas day games.