Lakers Tips: How Kobe Bryant Can Lead LA to Beat Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat

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Lakers Tips: How Kobe Bryant Can Lead LA to Beat Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat
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Where's the beef?

That's the question NBA fans have been asking when watching recent games of the free-falling Miami Heat.

Dwyane Wade and friends have now lost five games in a row and six of their last seven, including two heartbreaking losses to the Chicago Bulls, with their most recent defeat being at home at the hands of the Portland Trailblazers, currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

The most troubling aspect of these losses of the team lead by LeBron James is not a lack of talent on the squad.

It's certainly not a lack of offensive talent, at least when supplied by the Heat's "Big 2" of Wade and James, who scored 38 and 31 points respectively.

Having said that, alleged bawler Chris Bosh struggled offensively again, shooting just twenty-seven percent from the field for only seven points, the same amount that he scored against the Bulls on February 24 when he went 1-for-18 and shot just over five percent.

In that game, Bosh was simply shut down by Bulls center Joakim Noah, who kept him off-balance and forced him into difficult jump shots all night.  He terrorized Bosh so much mentally that even when he got open for easy lay-ins he would miss them.

Still, the main problem afflicting the Heat right now is not offense, but a total lack of shutdown defense late in the games.

What are the main problems with the Miami Heat's defense?

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Despite the posturing of coach Erik Spoelstra as a "defensive-minded coach", the Heat cannot play defense for the life of them.

At the end of both losses against the Bulls, starting point guard Derrick Rose was able to penetrate the Heat's defense at will, either scoring with driving lay-ups or attracting so much defensive attention that he could kick it out to an open teammate beyond the arc for an easy three-pointer.

Similarly, the Trailblazers exposed the Heat's defensive break-downs late in their game against Miami to win.

Down just two points with around three and a half minutes to play in the game, the Heat, as if on cue, left Brandon Roy wide open beyond the arc with his man Wade puzzlingly guarding absolutely no one in the paint.

Not surprisingly, Roy nailed the easy three-pointer with the only Heat player in the vicinity being Mario Chalmers rotating away from Gerald Wallace who was also open from behind the line, while Wade stayed by himself between the lanes.

That put the lead up to five, and the Blazers never looked back.  

On their next possession, Andre Miller scored on a lay-up with a drive that started near the half-court line, going past Chalmers, Bosh and then James, and made the hoop over Mike Bibby who had to rotate out from the wing.

Who is the Miami Heat's biggest defensive culprit?

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The Blazers' lead was then up to seven with just under three minutes left.

On Portland's next possession, the Heat allowed Bosh to cover LaMarcus Aldridge in the post without help, and Aldridge easily nailed a turnaround jumper over him.

The Blazers' lead was then up to nine with just over two minutes left.

Wade then hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to six at just under two minutes.

On the Blazers' next possession, Portland played team offense and rotated the ball, running down the shot clock to two seconds before Wesley Matthews launched up and hit a three-pointer over Bibby who was late coming off a screen.

The Blazers' lead was back up to nine with just around a minute and a half to play.

That made it four straight Blazers possessions in late game situations that Portland converted. The Heat absolutely could not stop the Blazers offensively, and therefore gave themselves no chance to come back and win the ball game.

The inability to make stops down the stretch put tremendous pressure on the Heat's offense, and any failed possession meant Miami would not be able to make up the deficit.

Though Portland missed the shot on their next possession after running down the shot clock to six, Wade immediately lost the ball to a steal by Miller after grabbing the rebound.

What can the Miami Heat do to solve their defensive woes?

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That allowed the Blazers to run down the shot clock again to just three seconds, and despite Wallace missing a three-pointer, the game clock was cut to just forty-two seconds left with Portland leading by nine, putting the game safely out of Miami's reach.

After some meaningless garbage time points by James and free throws by Portland, the game ended with the Blazers winning by nine, 105-96.

In a nutshell, that describes the Heat's current problems.

Despite keeping games close in nearly all of their recent losses, with the only exception being the 30 point blow-out administered by the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat have not been able to shut down teams down the stretch, resulting in loses in each and every close game.

Until the Heat address their defensive deficiencies, NBA fans can expect this downward spiral to continue, and opposing teams, like Miami's next opponent the Los Angeles Lakers, will relish their upcoming games with the "beef-less" Miami Heat.

*     *     *

Despite the Heat's recent struggles, here's a bold prediction: "The Los Angeles Lakers Will Lose To the Miami Heat on March 10".

Another bold NBA prediction: "The Boston Celtics Will Lose to the Los Angeles Clippers".

Which of the following potential opponents would pose the biggest problems for the Miami Heat in the NBA Playoffs?

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Against their likely first round opponent, "NBA Playoffs Preview: Battle of the 'Big Threes', New York Knicks Vs. the World".

When considering the Miami Heat's stiffest competition, "Would You Trade L.A.'s Kobe for the Chicago Bulls' D-Rose?"

When looking at their problems, "Do the Miami Heat Need to Fire Erik Spoelstra and Hire a Real Coach?

Or should the question be, "Who Should Be Traded, King James, D-Wade or Chris Bosh?

Like the Miami Heat, "Did Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers Hit Rock Bottom?"

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