After months of anticipation, the Christmas Day showdown between the Lakers and Heat is just hours away. While we all anxiously await opening gifts in the morning and watching one of the most anticipated regular season games in league history, here are some things to keep an eye on during tomorrow's game that could determine who wins and who goes home with a lump of coal in their stocking:
The Lakers Must Be Artists and Control the Paint: The most glaring mismatch of the game is the one the Lakers have in the frontcourt. If the Lakers make an honest effort to feed the ball to Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum all game long, they should be able to control the game's tempo. On the other hand, the Lakers will be in for a long game if they decide to turn the game into a jump shooting contest.
Chris Bosh vs. Lamar Odom: Bosh and Odom are the biggest X factors for their respective teams. When they play well, the Heat and Lakers are tough to beat. With that being said, Odom is having his most consistent season in the NBA, and Bosh has struggled to find his niche with the Heat. It will be interesting to see how each player performs tomorrow afternoon.
Which Kobe Bryant Will Show Up?: Going back to the point of the Lakers having a huge advantage in the frontcourt, the team plays much better when Kobe Bryant gets all of his teammates involved. Lakers fans will be downing extra eggnog tomorrow night if Kobe tries to take down LeBron and D-Wade all by himself.
Can the Lakers Slow Down Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade?: The Lakers have three of the top perimeter defenders in the game in Ron Artest, Matt Barnes and Kobe. Can they find the right combination of these three players trying to slow down James and Wade?
The Lakers cannot afford to let both players put up monster numbers. They will have to hope to slow one of them down to win the game.
Dwyane Wade's Knee: In Thursday night's game against the Suns, Wade sat out with soreness in his knee. We'll have to wait to see if Wade is limited by the injury against the Lakers.
Role Players: Will the Killer Bees (Barnes and Steve Blake) put a stamp on tomorrow's game the way they have many times this season for L.A.? Will Andrew Bynum or Mike Miller have a coming out party after recovering from their respective injuries? Will James Jones be able to get clean looks from downtown?
Answers to these questions will likely decide the game.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade: Batman and Robin?: Up to this point, James and Wade have taken turns tormenting other teams, as neither one has clearly stepped up as the team's alpha dog. With that being said, tomorrow's game gives one of these players a chance to show America he is the Miami Heat's Batman.
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