Los Angeles Lakers at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Lakers 127-100 in their last meeting on Jan. 6, 2017. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What was your main takeaway from Miami’s dramatic victory over the 76ers?
Couper Moorhead: The 76ers, aside from some poor turnovers like a missed lob to an open Ben Simmons in the final minutes, did just about everything right down the stretch. They got open shots. They made winning plays. The switched exceptionally well on defense with all their size and length. For the most part, it felt as though they were in control.
But as has happened so many times in Dwyane Wade’s historic career, he made sure none of that mattered. Wade took over Miami’s offense in the last five minutes, beating every defensive look thrown at him with an array of step-backs, step-throughs, up fakes and floaters. His best play, however, was the shot he didn’t take when, after another Sixers switch, he found Hassan Whiteside under the rim with a perfect entry pass.
The HEAT even made some mistakes of their own along the way, including leaving J.J. Redick open for three on a potential game-winning shot, but great players, even as they age, have the gift of erases all your mistakes and anything else your opponent is doing right. This was a signature Wade victory in every possible way.
Joe Beguiristain: Dwyane Wade is still Dwyane Wade.
You may have heard by now that Wade took over in the fourth quarter with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including the game winner over Ben Simmons with 5.9 seconds left, but he also made some nice hustle plays as well.
It all started early in the second quarter when the 36-year-old raced back in defensive transition to block Robert Covington and save two points. A little later, Wade came away with two heads-up steals in the third to initiate fast-break opportunities for Miami.
Sure, the HEAT’s overall defensive execution could have been better down the stretch, but the fact is they found a way to come out ahead. With a league-high 43 clutch games now under its belt, Miami is finding ways to block out the noise and perform when the pressure is at its highest.
That’ll certainly come in handy in this final stretch of the season.
2: With this being our first look at the Lakers this year, how is their season going and what defines them most as a team?
Couper: Their youth. The Lakers do have some underrated veterans on their roster, namely Brook Lopez (always a thorn in Miami’s side) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but this Lakers team is defined by their youth. They have Julius Randle, a multi-skilled forward who can handle the ball and make plays for others. They have Brandon Ingram, blossoming into an all-around threat in his second year. And then they have a trio of rookies in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart (who recently suffered a hand injury), all of whom are contributing. That’s a lot of young talent on one team, and despite their relative inexperience (they struggle with turnovers, as we’ll get to in a bit) under Luke Walton they’ve managed to carve out the No. 11 ranked defense (105.3 points per 100 possessions allowed).
As far as their season, the Lakers are 26-34 and are still slightly closer to the No. 8 seed than they are to the bottom four teams in the Western Conference, having won seven of their last 10 games. The time for the all that youth might not be here quite yet, but Walton has them a little closer than you might initially think.
Joe: As Coup alluded to above, the Lakers are better than the average fan might think. In addition to being solid defensively, Los Angeles is also the fastest team in the league at 103.16 possessions per game. Thanks to their ability to get out in transition, the Lakers are ranked in the top 10 in shot quality (expected effective field goal percentage of 52.2).
When you combine all those things together, you come up with a Los Angeles team that has won three straight since the All-Star Break. Over that span, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has led the way with 19.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game on 52.4 percent shooting. That said, Julius Randle has also been very impressive on both ends of the floor and notched a triple-double against the Mavericks on Feb. 23.
The Lakers are no joke.
3: Where can the HEAT find an advantage Thursday night?
Couper: Like recent opponents Philadelphia and Memphis, the Lakers are a Bottom Five team in terms of turnover rate. For as important as Wade’s heroics were down the stretch against the 76ers, it was Philadelphia’s trouble taking care of the ball, and Miami’s ability to take advantage of those giveaways, that kept the HEAT in position for Wade to do his thing. If the HEAT can similarly pressure the Lakers into mistakes, likely by doing the same thing they’ve done to the 76ers and Bucks by shrinking the floor on drives and forcing tough kickout passes, then they should be able to boost their offense by getting out in transition. And if you can out-transition the Lakers, the No. 28 ranked half-court offense in the league, then you’re playing with an advantage all game long.
Joe: On paper, the HEAT have an advantage on the defensive end against the Lakers. While Los Angeles obtains good looks, the team doesn’t convert them at a very high rate. That should pave the way for Miami to impose its will against a rather inexperienced Lakers group.
Of all the individual matchups we’re likely to see, I’m most looking forward to how Josh Richardson fares against Brandon Ingram. For the season, J. Rich is holding the opposition to a shade under six percentage points less than their usual field goal percentage overall. We’ll see if he can continue to wreak havoc defensively on Thursday night.
INJURY UPDATE: Tyler Johnson & Wayne Ellington have both been ruled out with left quad contusions.
- The HEAT have won two straight and are 32-29 on the year.
- The Lakers have won three in a row and enter the contest at 26-34.
- Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (17.5) and assists (4.9) per game.
- Brandon Ingram leads Los Angeles in scoring at 16.2 points per contest.
- This will be the first of 10 home games the HEAT will play in the month of March.
- HEAT Offense: 103.3 (T-24)
- HEAT Defense: 104.0 (7)
- Lakers Offense: 103.3 (T-24)
- Lakers Defense: 105.3 (11)