Lakers play Miami Heat on second game of back-to-back

Lakers are on the third game of their five-game roadie.

Well, the Lakers finally snapped their losing streak at four after they had, quite frankly, one of their best games of the season in their win against Orlando. They passed the ball around, were making a ton of threes, and actually held their opponents under 111 (which meant fans could get tacos with a purchase of a drink for a certain fast food establishment!).

But they don’t get to savor the victory for long. The Lakers immediately had to fly to another city to play a game not even 24 hours after the Magic game. Enter their 2020 NBA Finals opponents, the Miami Heat.

The Heat are normally a disciplined team under the roof of former Laker godfather Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra. They surprisingly made the Finals in 2020 and were four points short of an NBA Finals berth last season.

This year? 17-17. Why? It seems to be the same problem that plagued them in their disappointing 2021 campaign: they can’t seem to stay healthy.

While they did joke (after being fined) two weeks ago by putting every player on their injury report, they really are a team struggling with injuries. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Udonis Haslem (yes, that Udonis Haslem) are all questionable for Wednesday night. Butler’s missed 13 games already this season. Vincent has missed 14. Martin and Adebayo have stayed relatively healthy (did not suit up for three and four games, respectively) and the Heat had been so decimated that 42-year-old Haslem had to start a game for them.

When Butler plays, he’s still one of the best in the game (21.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.9 steals per game). Tyler Herro (21.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.4 APG) won the Sixth Man of the Year award last season; he has now been moved into the starting line-up. Adebayo is still a beast defensively and averaging a career-best 20.8 points per. And Kyle Lowry is still very servicebale at age 36.

The Heat like to play it slow (28th in pace). But their offense hasn’t produced great results this season (last in points per game and 26th in offensive rating). Of course, part of that could be attributed to inconsistent line-ups but also, their three-point shooting hasn’t been as prolific (24th in percentage; they were first last year).

Still, their defense is very good (8th in defensive rating). And that’s been the Heat’s calling card the last few years, especially when you have Adebayo in the paint and Butler and Lowry up top. But the mission right now for the Heat seems to be about getting to the finish line healthy as they try to secure a playoff spot. They’ve had wins over Phoenix and Boston but also had terrible losses against Detroit and San Antonio.

As for the Lakers, it’s not a surprise LeBron James is questionable for this game, considering it’s a back-to-back. They will have the services of Juan Toscano-Anderson back, though. As for their play, the Lakers have to be careful about taking care of the ball. The Heat are third in forcing turnovers. The game will obviously be a lot easier if LeBron plays but with the Heat’s inconsistencies this season, this game is up for grabs.

We’ll see if the Lakers can get low and sweep through Florida this season.

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