The (16-26) Los Angeles Lakers are in southeastern Florida to face the (30-12) Miami Heat. The purple and gold are playing the fifth of seven games on their annual Grammy's road trip. The Lakers have posted a 2-2 record on the trip. Age, injuries, lack of a reliable or consistent defensive effort and unfortunate circumstances has seriously altered this season.
When you look at the list of injured players and measure that against the nine available players that will represent the purple and gold tonight it is difficult to believe that you are not viewing two different teams and that these are the Lakers. The last time the Lakers faced the two-time NBA defending champions, the Heat put on a highlight-reel filled show on Christmas Day winning 101 – 95.
The outcome failed to shock anyone, but the surprise was that the Lakers were competitive, put up a fight and the game was close. The Lakers have dropped six straight games to the Heat. The Lakers are 3-7 overall in their last 10 games against the Heat. In Miami, the Lakers are 2 – 8 in their last 10 games and have lost in seven of their last eight trips to southeastern Florida. The Miami Heat are 6-6 without Dwayne Wade in the lineup.
For Los Angeles to stay in this game the Lakers have to come out and play with energy and effort. Despite playing with an injury limiting his mobility Pau Gasol has averaged 22 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 blocks while shooting 53-percent from the field in the last five games. Nick Young scored 31 points off the bench in Chicago becoming the first Laker to score 30 points in a game this season.
Young is averaging 24.3 points while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from the three-point line. Kendall Marshall has averaged 11.3 points and 12 assists in the last six games. Quietly, Kendall Marshall has 118 assists over his last 10 games placing him third in Lakers history to achieve that mark behind Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Norm Nixon.
The Lakers and the Heat will play small ball tonight and play most of the game in transition, but the Lakers defense will dictate their success or failure. The Lakers are 29th in the NBA in points allowed and rank as the 6th worst in the NBA in turnovers, averaging 15.7 per game resulting in an average of 24 points in their last six games.
Defensively, the Lakers need to communicate better on the defensive end. Los Angeles needs to do a better job of stopping dribble penetration, defending the pick and roll play, get back in transition, control the tempo, control the boards, limit the Heat's second-chance points and quickly rotate out to open shooters. The Lakers need excellent ball movement and solid player movement to find high percentage shots.
Lakers: K. Marshall, J. Meeks, W.Johnson, R. Kelly, P.Gasol
Heat: M. Chalmers, R. Allen, L. James, S. Battier, C. Bosh
Tip-off: 5:00 PM PST
Los Angeles: TNT & TWC SportsNet (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
Miami: TNT & Fox Sports (Eric Reid & Tony Fiorentino)
Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Jon Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
Miami: 790 & 104.3 The Ticket (Mike Inglis & John Crotty)
• Kobe Bryant (Knee Fracture) Out
• Steve Nash (Nerve Root Irritation) Out
• Steve Blake (Elbow) Out
• Jordan Farmar (Hamstring) Out
• Xavier Henry (Knee) Out
• Pau Gasol (Foot) Will Play
• Dwayne Wade (Knee Maintenance) Out
Jeff Little is the host of "The Locker Room" a daily sports talk radio show based out of Los Angeles 6-8 pm PST www.sportsjourney.com Follow on twitter @JeffLittle32, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+