Los Angeles Lakers: 5 Reasons They Won't Lose to the Miami Heat Again
The Los Angeles Lakers are hot. The Miami Heat are not. The two teams will meet up in Miami on Thursday, March 10.
Thursday will mark the first contest between the two squads since Christmas Day. On that day, the Heat gave a gift to their fans with a 96-80 thrashing of the Lakers. The Heat were riding high and the Lakers had just lost to the Milwaukee Bucks by 19.
Times have changed.
The Lakers have soared since the All-Star break, and the Heat are having fourth-quarter woes. Both units have a game on Tuesday before the big matchup.
Here are five reasons why the Lakers will turn the tables on the Heat on Thursday, with a score prediction to top it off.
1. Hot or Cold Coming In
The Lakers have won seven straight. They are playing arguably the best basketball of their season, and a clicking Lakers team is a scary thing for the rest of the NBA.
It's funny how all the people hating on the Lakers haven't been heard from in weeks, and they are a top-tier title contender again in the media.
The Heat, however, have dropped four straight. Troubles in the final quarter have led to some deflating losses. They are currently 1-9 against the top three teams in each conference. If the Heat don't figure out how to close games, they will hit double-digits in big losses.
The Lakers play the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. Los Angeles crushed the Hawks by 24 to start the streak and will look to repeat the performance of two weeks ago.
The Heat play the Portland Trail Blazers, who are also on the rise. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games, including a 24-point annihilation of the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The Blazers didn't allow the Bobcats to tally 20 points in any quarter. They also have Brandon Roy back.
The Lakers are the hottest team in the league and the Heat are the coldest. The Lakers will chip another piece away from the Heat's confidence.
2. Defense Wins Championships
The two-time defending champs are getting back to their roots.
The Lakers are finally playing the level of defense which helped them to two titles and a hot start to the season. They have held their last five opponents to under 100 points, four of which fell short of 90 also.
Having Andrew Bynum back is a big help. Ron Artest is looking more like himself lately. Kobe Bryant's even getting in on the action, jumping a passing lane and starting a fast break in a win against the Spurs on Sunday night. The Lakers outscored the Spurs 34-13 en route to a rout.
The Heat need to show up on both sides of the ball if they want to compete with the Lakers.
The Heat allowed 125 points against the Spurs just two days before in a 30-point loss. Miami is in no way bragging about a shutdown defense.
3. If It's Close, the Heat Can't Close
Miami fans, and perhaps the whole world, have witnessed a disturbing trend with the Heat in their recent skid.
They can't close games.
"The Big Three" have not just lost four in a row, they've been devastated. Other than the beatdown in San Antonio, they have had a chance to win the other three games. It's not like they lost to bad teams. The three losses were suffered to the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls.
The way they lost is what's been the talk of the town.
The Heat lost the three games by a combined nine points. They had their fair share of shots in New York, but couldn't connect. Against the Magic, Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Mike Bibby all had chances to tie it up, but none were too close. Against the Bulls, both LeBron and Dwyane Wade missed potential game-winners.
If it's close in Miami on Thursday, expect the Lakers to leave with a huge win.
4. Artest on LeBron
All the talk about Ron Artest being washed up and a detriment to the Lakers must have lit a fire under him.
Artest is playing some of the best basketball of the season, and the Lakers have the wins to prove it. In an overtime thriller against the Blazers, Artest went 5-for-6 from three and had 24 points.
More importantly, Artest's defense has been back on the rise. He was nothing short of spectacular while defending Kevin Durant in a 90-87 triumph over the high-scoring Thunder.
When the Lakers last played the Heat, LeBron went for a triple-double and went 5-for-6 from long distance.
If Artest has his way, don't expect another triple-double from LeBron.
5. Andrew Bynum Effect
Another Laker name in the rumor mill about two weeks ago was Andrew Bynum.
The Lakers center has responded to questions about his value by grabbing everything in sight since since the All-Star break. In the Lakers' seven wins, Bynum has snagged 81 rebounds. He's snatched 17 rebounds in back-to-back contests.
Bynum has also been blocking shots and wreaking havoc with Pau Gasol in the paint, making it tough for teams to score inside against the Lake Show.
On Christmas, Bynum only played 17 minutes against the Heat, getting his hands on a mere five boards. He will have five rebounds on Thursday by the end of the first quarter.
In regards to offense, Bynum could have a huge day against the Heat. Zydrunas Ilgauskas isn't going to stop Bynum and neither is the undersized Joel Anthony.
Although Lamar Odom is usually the X-factor for the Lakers, the Heat have LeBron and Bosh to match his size and speed.
They have absolutely zero answers for Bynum.
Prediction: Lakers 113, Heat 96