HEAT Close Road Trip Against Lakers

Goran Dragić
Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein
by Joe Beguiristain

Fresh off a bounce-back win over the Suns, the HEAT are right back at it Friday against the Lakers.

But before we break down the leaders of the Western Conference, let’s go over Miami’s well-earned victory on Thursday.

In a nutshell, Jimmy Butler got buckets in the first half and Goran Dragić breathed fire after that to seal the deal. And while those two will garner all the attention for their 59 points combined on the night (and rightfully so), there was a lot more to the HEAT’s performance.

For starters, Bam Adebayo wreaked havoc defensively with a game and career-high five steals, as he trapped well along the perimeter and forced Phoenix into plenty of turnovers. And as a unit, Miami did a nice job of limiting Devin Booker to just seven points on 1-of-4 shooting after the break. On one notable possession late in the fourth, Tyler Herro picked Booker’s pocket and finished the play on the other end.

“He wanted that matchup there in the second half. I was trying to get Jimmy [Butler] on him, but he was adamant about doing it, so I was going to give him one more possession,” Erik Spoelstra said. “But you got to like the kid’s guts, for better or worse. He had some defensive breakdowns throughout the course of the game, and he’s learning. And Devin [Booker] got him a couple of times…but he’s a competitor. He wants those kind of challenges. And on the other end, he gave us some big relief buckets in the second half. He’s not running away from anything. As he’s learning the league…he’ll take his hits on the chin, but he isn’t going to back down.”

We all know that Herro and the HEAT aren’t going to back down from a challenge, but neither are the streaking Lakers.

L.A. enters the contest winners of six straight, including a 19-point comeback in Chicago its last time out. And even though LeBron James recorded his third-consecutive triple-double with 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in that matchup, it was Kyle Kuzma and Quinn Cook who shouldered the scoring load late with a combined 19 points in the fourth.

As a whole, though, the Lakers aren’t just about one or two guys.

All told, five rotation players on the squad have a net rating greater than 10, with Dwight Howard leading the way at 22.5. In turn, that has manifested itself into the second-best net rating (8.8) and the best defensive rating (97.9) in the entire league.

Speaking of defense, Anthony Davis is holding his assignments to an unfathomable 29.8 percent shooting (25-of-84) from the field. And from a team perspective, L.A. defends the rim and three-point line rather well.

Simply put, the Lakers are a force to be reckoned with.

INJURY/STATUS UPDATE: For Miami, Derrick Jones Jr. (Left Hip Strain), Justise Winslow (Concussion Protocol), Dion Waiters (Illness), Daryl Macon (G League - Two-Way) and KZ Okpala (Left Achilles Strain) are out. For Los Angeles, Kyle Kuzma (Stress Reaction, Left Ankle) is probable. Avery Bradley (Lower Right Leg Contusion) is questionable. Rajon Rondo (Mild Right Calf Strain) is doubtful. DeMarcus Cousins (Rehabilitation, Right Knee), Talen Horton-Tucker (G League - On Assignment), Kostas Antetokounmpo (G League - Two-Way) and Zach Norvell Jr. (G League - Two-Way) are out.

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