How Heat fared last season: Lost in six games to Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals
Why Miami is a threat to the Lakers: The Lakers' championship window is closing, while the Miami Heat's is just opening. Ridicule LeBron James' fourth-quarter collapses in the NBA Finals and the team's false expectations during a hastily arranged pep rally that they'd win "multiple championships." But after stripping away the hype, the Heat were two games away from winning the NBA title in only one season with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing together.
They showed more maturity as the season progressed in handling adversity, an area that will strengthen next season. Another season will also afford James and Wade time to figure out each other's roles, Bosh to become more consistent and President Pat Riley to pick up a free agent piece to bolster the roster. A healthier Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem will also give the Heat more depth.
Although it wasn't a particularly well-played game, the Lakers' 94-88 loss to the Heat was an intense contest that reminded one of playoff-caliber basketball. The play was rough at times -- both from a fundamental aspect and physical style on the court.
None of the superstars in the game shot particularly well -- Kobe Bryant was eight of 21 from the field, LeBron James was not much better at seven of 17 and Dwyane Wade went nine for 23. Each team shot well from three-point range, though, and Chris Bosh outplayed the Lakers' big men. The Heat negated the Lakers' size advantage by packing the lane with help defense and Miami's bench outplayed their counterparts from L.A.
Here's a sampling of what was written about the game:
The Lakers fell apart in the final minutes and the Miami Heat snapped a five-game losing streak Thursday at American Airlines Arena.
Kobe Bryant had two turnovers in the final two minutes, including one in which he lost the ball while going up for a shot down low with 40.9 seconds left and the Lakers down four. He finished with 24 points.
The Lakers had an eight-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2-1 on a four-game trip that ends Saturday in Dallas.
Andrew Bynum came alive after a forgettable first half, finishing with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Chris Bosh had 24 points for Miami, Dwyane Wade had 20 and LeBron James had 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
Three online gambling sites all have the Lakers a slight favorite on the road in Thursday's game against the Heat in Miami.
Usually, being the home team is worth two or three points in the setting of the betting line.
Beted.com and Betus.com both have the Lakers favored by one point over the Heat, who have lost five straight games, and both sites expect a tight defensive game with their total points over-and-under at 188 1/2.
Meanwhile, Bodog.com favors the Lakers by 1 1/2 points in the contest.
The good news is that you can still get tickets to Thursday night's Lakers-Heat game without going bankrupt. The bad news is that if you want a seat where you don't need binoculars to see expressions on players' faces, you'll need a really big checking account or a credit card with five figures as the limit.
The Lakers-Heat game is the most coveted ticket for Miami this season. The average seat is going for $342, according to Ben Kessler of SeatGeek.com. That's a 161% increase over the season average. It's currently more than double the asking price of the average seat for next month's Celtics-Heat game, at $184.
Seating in the nose-bleed 400 section is going for $119 a ticket. A courtside seat is going for an average of $8,555. At least a round-trip plane ticket to Miami would be less.
-- Dan Loumena
Image: Seating chart for Miami's American Airlines Arena. Credit: SeatGeek.com
Ron Artest refused to watch the Heat-Suns game on Thursday, opting to spend time getting ready for the holidays. But there's one thing he knows very well about LeBron James.
"He plays better and he entertains more when he's upset," Artest said of James.
Which is the exact reason why he wants to find a way to make James angry when the Lakers host the Miami Heat on Christmas Day. In Artest's mind, "It's best to get people's 'A' game so then if you play bad, you can't make excuses." So at some point during the Lakers' game on Saturday, Artest will do and/or say something to get under James' skin. But he's not going to share what it might be other than to say, "I'll do something tomorrow to make him mad."
That leaves it to me to help out with a few suggestions.
1. Announce James as the winner of Artest's championship ring raffle. At 11 a.m., Artest is scheduled to announce who will win his championship ring, with the funds going to mental health charities. He's already raised $600,000, and it's going toward a good cause. But it'd be funny if Artest jokingly announced James as the winner and proclaimed he needs it because this gives him the only chance to have a ring.
3. Clap chalk in James' face. After all, it's a custom for the King to do so before the game. Now he can be on the receiving end of it.
4. Remind James of his own NBA rankings. Artest boasted at the beginning of the season that Kobe Bryant is the league's best player, followed by Thunder forward Kevin Durant. But when asked where he would rank James, Artest replied, "You have to ask him." When pressed further, Artest said with a smile, "I only count to two. I've been out of school for 10 years. I only count to two."
5. Artest can remind James of his tweet when he announced his decision to go to Miami. Artest sarcastically tweeted, "What team did lebron go to?"
6. As he runs up and down the court defending James, Artest could recite the lyrics to his song "Champion." Something tells me it would be pretty aggravating for Artest to recite the first verse after each defensive stop: "Moment of silence for the champions."
7. Artest can reveal to James that he actually was the person hosting an anti-LeBron party this summer in New York. Although Artest made it clear in a statement he wasn't associated with the party, it never hurts to lie if it gets under an opponent's skin.
8. James plans to debut on Christmas Day the newest pair of Nike shoes called LeBron 8 V/2, a bright red shoe with green shoelaces called "Run on Red." Kobe Bryant might be stealing James' spotlight by debuting the Nike Zoom Kobe VI shoe in Grinch colors, but he doesn't have to be the only one. Artest can find a way to steal James' shoes and wear them himself for the game. If Artest can't pull that off, he can always toss James' shoes much like he did last season to former Lakers forward Trevor Ariza.
9. Bump into James, just like he did with Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra and former Cleveland Coach Mike Brown.
10. Artest should just do his job. As much as he prides himself on matching up with the best players, Artest struggled to defend James last season, allowing him to score an average of 31.5 points in two games. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson simply wants Artest and Matt Barnes to contain James, limiting his defensive rebounds and points in transition. Focusing on that task could prove more valuable than worrying about how to upset James.
Lakers forward Ron Artest says he can't wait to buy NBA 2K11 because it features his rap single "Champion." Lakers forward Kobe Bryant says in an ad he can't wait to buy the newly released video game so he can add Michael Jordan to his team. And I couldn't wait to play it either so I could see how such a scenario would turn out.
NBA players, Bryant among them, like the video game because of its realistic game play and graphics.
You may be left scratching your heads about how on earth I maneuvered a trade involving Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic for Jordan from the '95-'96 Bulls team. It's like this: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak somehow acquired Pau Gasol and a second-round pick from Memphis in 2008 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie and two first-round picks. So don't consider this far-fetched, even if the Lakers prove unsuccessful in getting Vujacic off the books before this season's trading deadline and the move puts the team way over the luxury-tax threshold.
With M.J. and the Black Mamba side by side, I pitted the Lakers against the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, the two Eastern Conference teams I thought had the best shot in meeting the Lakers in this season's NBA Finals. The results: The Lakers beat Boston rather handily, 103-85, but lost to Miami 105-99.
I also matched up the current Lakers team with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that still holds the regular-season record for most wins (72), a feat this year's Lakers team, Heat team or any team won't surpass anytime soon. And the Bulls proved their dominance in that one, with M.J. dropping 56 points in a 114-106 victory over the Lakers.
Clearly things didn't turn out the way Bryant would've imagined in the ad below.
Below the jump, watch the highlights for yourself.
The Lakers are officially underway. They're finally playing basketball, providing glimpses of how the roster might shape up and giving the fans of the L.A. Times' Lakers blog something to keep them from going insane (or so I hope).
But this is one game. As much as I detailed five things to take away from the Lakers' 111-92 loss Monday to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it's one exhibition game. I don't want to say my post was a waste of time to read and write, but you have to take it for what it is. The Lakers have seven remaining pre-season games and the ring ceremony/opening night isn't until Oct. 26 against Houston.
That leaves time for The Times' Mike Bresnahan and myself to dive into a few questions after the jump.