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Category: Miami Heat

Five things to watch in Lakers-Heat game

LeBron James

Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (10-5) take their talents to South Beach and vist the Miami Heat (9-4) on Thursday evening at at American Airlines Arena:

1. LeBron James might be sick one way or another: James technically remains a game-time decision after leaving morning shoot-around because of flu-like symptoms. Go ahead. Throw your punch lines about James disappearing before the game even starts. But he'll likely play. Considering that he followed a listless first half against San Antonio with a dominant second half while feeling under the weather, the Lakers shouldn't exactly bank on James being ineffective.

Normally this matchup would go to Metta World Peace, but he's assumed a bench role and hasn't shown much with his speed. Matt Barnes could disrupt James' comfort zone. Or he might just commit silly fouls. It's all dependant if Barnes can channel that aggressiveness appropriately. Either way, Mike Brown is kind of familiar with James and probably has a good defensive game plan for him.

2. Kobe Bryant vs. Shane Battier: Without Dwyane Wade (left ankle sprain) and James' possible limitations, the Heat should feel fortunate that Battier will be there to defend Bryant. It's possible Bryant may go on a scoring tear, but Battier has always managed to force Bryant to work for his shots in the most undesirable locations. Considering that Brown wants to decrease Bryant's minutes and have a more balanced offense, Battier can surely disrupt that game plan.

3. Can the Lakers spread the wealth?Short-term, Bryant's scoring bursts have secured wins and entertained Laker fans every step of the way. But just because it's fun and effective to drive a sports car at 110 miles an hour doesn't mean it's always a good idea. Long-term, the Lakers have to feature a more balanced effort. As always, this macro issue falls equally on Bryant and his teammates. Kobe has taken some horrible shots during his scoring tear, while Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum haven't always remained aggressive-minded.

It's unrealistic for Brown's wishful thinking that the reserves can suddenly blossom to actually happen. That's why Bryant, Bynum and Gasol need to collectively operate as their own Big Three, where they're constantly feeding off one another. No better way to do that than against Miami's Big Three, or Big Two since Wade will be out.

 

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Vegas oddmakers keep Miami Heat as 2012 NBA title favorite

Las Vegas

That sudden wave of relief Laker fans feel over a salvaged NBA season will quickly evaporate over a sobering reality.

The Purple and Gold has issues, and Las Vegas oddmakers have noticed, which is why they have given the Miami Heat better odds at winning the 2012 NBA championship. MGM Mirage's race and sports director Jay Rood considers Miami a 2-to-1 favorite to win the title, followed by the Lakers (9-to-2) and the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder (5-to-1). Meanwhile, Jay Kornegay, director of the Las Vegas Hilton Race and Sports Book, has tabbed the Heat as 2-to-1 favorites, unless the Chicago Bulls (6-to-1) get past them. That puts the Lakers (7-to-1) in a third-place tie with the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The reasons appear fairly simple.

"They're aging and have miles on them," Kornegay said. "They don't have a true point guard. And the coaching is a question mark."

"The Lakers have potential to be this year's Philadelphia Eagles more than anybody right now," Rood said. "Two of their guys (Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher) are getting long in the tooth. Kobe has been injured more often than not. With a shorter season, you don't know if it will help or hurt them. If a significant player gets injured, it'll be more difficult to overcome in a shorter season. They also don't have the luxury of taking six weeks off and get back in the thick of things."

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Miami Heat would give Lakers trouble in NBA Finals

Kobe Bryant

Team: Miami Heat

Lakers' record vs. Miami last season: 0-2

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.

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Should Lakers fans root for the Miami Heat or the Dallas Mavericks?

Fans_600 

Lakers fans are in quite an uncomfortable situation.

To root for Dallas or to root for Miami, that is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of cheering for a team that swept you, or to embrace a sea of trouble by siding with LeBron James.

Seriously, the options are dim.

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh already ruined our Christmas, 96-80. And now they have a 50% chance of wearing those cute little championship caps that should have belonged to our boys in purple and gold. Not our summers too!

And the Mavericks, well, they made Pau Gasol look bad in the playoffs -- I hear "soft" has officially become a bad word in some school districts -- and they are the catalysts behind Magic Johnson saying that Jerry Buss needs "to blow this team up."

Wasn't Kaboom one of Shaq's nicknames at some point? We sure could've used the Big Fella during that series.

I digress. (Choosing another team really is that hard.)

Anyway, Game 5 is Thursday night.

Lakers fans: Which team will you root for?

-- Melissa Rohlin

 Photo: Lakers fans. Credit: Cary Edmondson / US Presswire

Kobe taking some Heat after Lakers loss to Miami

In its "Six Questions" feature, ESPN has asked a selection of people their take on certain aspects of Thursday's Lakers loss to Miami. One of the questions, with selected answers, is below, and as you can see, some pin the loss on Kobe Bryant's shoulders. You can read all the answers here.

Fabforum_400 Q: What's your take on Kobe's performance?

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Idea: The vast majority of the NBA's poor shot selection is the work of superstar wings. That includes players like Wade, James and Bryant. Who else gets to miss seven in a row and keep shooting?

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: He's lucky he has had so many winning performances in the past; otherwise, he'd be defined by his poor shot selection and turnovers in the fourth quarter of this showcase game.

Kevin Arnovitz, Heat Index: It certainly wasn't unprecedented. With the Heat containing the Lakers up front, Kobe took it upon himself to robo-shoot the Lakers to a win. Sometimes he succeeds, and sometimes he doesn't, as was the case Thursday night. Both his shot selection and playmaking were sloppy, and that petulance that often fuels him led him into a series of bad decisions.

Chris Broussard, ESPN the Magazine: Kobe took a couple of quick 3s, which were ill-advised, but I'm not going to kill him. He couldn't beat Wade off the dribble, for the most part, and settled almost exclusively for jumpers. But he hit some big 3s, too. Not a great performance, obviously, but not alarmingly bad in any way.

-- Houston Mitchell

Photo: Kobe Bryant puts up a shot against Miami. Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images.

Lakers-Heat tickets: Prices are enough to make one cry

Heat-seating_400

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

Heat is making all nice just before game with Lakers

It's amazing what a night to reflect and relax can accomplish. It appears all is right with the Heat again. Yes, they all love each other, just in time for Thursday's matchup with the Lakers. At least, that is what Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra would have you believe.

“Today, it wasn’t about talk,” Spoelstra said after practice on Wednesday. “It was about working and practicing.”

Fabforum All this comes on the heels of Tuesday's loss to Portland, with Chris Bosh whining, I mean, complaining about his undefined role on the team.

“Chris can always voice his opinion,” LeBron James said. “If Chris wants the ball then he can ask for it and he can get it. If Chris wants the ball and wants to be more aggressive and wants to be more inserted into the offense, all he has to do is ask for it. When’s he’s productive, we’re a better team.”

We shall see. Because the Lakers are playing as well as they have all season. And Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and the rest of the Lakers certainly seem ready for the hype that will accompany their second and final regular-season matchup against the Heat.

 This is quickly turning into a trap game for the Lakers. If they win, then it will be dismissed as defeating a Heat team that is in turmoil. If they win, all they did was defeat a team that is in the midst of some severe personality problems. That shouldn't matter to the Lakers however, but don't be surprised when the Lakers haters and LeBron faithful trot out that line of thinking depending on what happens Thursday.

-- Houston Mitchell

Photo: It looks like Chris Bosh could use a security blanket. Credit: Associated Press.

 

Long-distance dedications for Miami Heat

We all know there's no crying in baseball ... but apparently there is in basketball. Miami Coach Eric Spoelstra told reporters after the Heat's 87-86 loss (their fourth straight) to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, "This is painful for every single one of us going through this, there are a couple of guys crying in the locker room."

Not sure what that scene looked like. Could have been a couple of tears rolling down their cheeks, like Sinead O'Connor in the "Nothing Compares 2 U" music video, Or maybe it was an all-out sobfest like Ben Stiller at the end of "There's Something About Mary."

We all know that there's nothing like a good song to help cheer someone up. And being the compassionate bunch that they are, many Lakers blog readers have been sending out "heartfelt" songs to the Heat and their fans. Here's a video jukebox for anyone who wants to make a long-distance dedication to our sad friends in the Southeast (thanks to readers Regular Season Police for Ozzy and LRob for Fergie).

Or you can suggest a song of your own -- you know, to make those guys feel better. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comment section.

-- Chuck Schilken

Rival centers and the Lakers title run

Shaqbynum Anyone looking ahead to a Lakers-Celtics rubber match in June should know that Shaquille O’Neal turned 39 on Sunday.

Yes, Shaq, is the NBA’s oldest player. When Celtics GM Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder he also rolled the dice on Shaq standing up throughout the playoffs.

Granted, there are no back-to-backs scheduled in the playoffs, but it’s still a long slog to a title. Last spring the Lakers needed 23 playoff contests to win it, and they played 23 games in 2009. Other recent title runs: the Celtics’ 26 games in 2008, the Spurs’ 20 in 2007, and the Heat’s 21 in 2006.

Of the eight plausible title contenders, only the Heat lacks a meaningful center. For the other seven teams, most rely on centers who have carry medical concerns.

Let’s start with the Bulls: Joakim Noah, in his fourth season, looked like an All-Star till he went down and missed 30 games for thumb surgery. Last season he sat out 18 games.

Celtics: For the Shamrock’s, Shaq has laced them up for 36 games and missed 25 — and counting — with knee, hip and Achilles woes. This season Shaq’s PR for consecutive games played is 16.

Lakers: Andrew Bynum at 23 is the youngest of this group. He played in all 23 playoff games last spring, though mostly on one leg. He played limited minutes in their 2009 title run, and missed 21 playoff games in 2008.

Magic: Dwight Howard is Superman, missing three games in seven seasons.

Mavericks: Tyson Chandler, 28, has anchored the paint for Dallas and missed but three of their first 57 games. Now, he’s sat out the last two with a sprained right ankle. Chandler knows downtime: missing 31 games for Charlotte last season, and 36 games for New Orleans in 2008-09.

Spurs: Tim Duncan reaches the NBA’s antique threshold when he turns 35 in April. Wise Gregg Popovich has reduced Duncan’s court time to a career-low 29 minutes.

Thunder: Perkins has yet to play for OKC. He missed 43 games for Boston after reconstructive right knee surgery, then played 12 games and averaged 8.1 boards, bruised his left knee two weeks ago and was traded.

My wager is the last team standing in June is the one with a starting center still able to power up and down the court on two healthy legs.

--Barry Stavro

Photo: Shaquille O’Neal fouls Andrew Bynum in the Lakers-Celtics game at Staples Center in January. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Lakers vs. Miami: Lakers get beat-down by Heat on Christmas Day

Lakers16_510 Heat 96, Lakers 80 (final)

For all the hype about the Lakers and Miami Heat playing on Christmas Day, for all the talk about all the stars on the court, it was a dud.

Well, not if you are a Heat fan, of which there were only a few at Staples Center on Saturday.

The biggest stars were the Heat and its Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris  Bosh.

Not even Kobe Bryant could keep up with that threesome.

Bryant had 17 points, but he was just six-for-16 shooting from the field. Bryant finished with seven assists and six rebounds.

James had a triple-double, scoring 27 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out 10 assists.

Bosh had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Wade had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds.

There was a moment in the fourth quarter when Bryant and James got into a heated exchange walking up the court. It happened right after Bryant had been called for an offensive foul.

The Lakers now have lost two straight and next play the Spurs in San Antonio on Tuesday. The Spurs are 25-4, the best record in the NBA.

When the Lakers fell behind, 84-69, the fans booed them.

But even that was light-hearted.

RELATED:

Lakers vs. Heat photos

Celebrities courtside at Staples Center

Lakers-Heat box score

Heat 75, Lakers 64 (end of third quarter)

The Lakers still didn't play very good defense, falling behind by as many as 16 points during the third.

But they continued to work at it, giving themselves a chance by pulling to within 11 points entering the fourth.

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