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LA Lakers vs. Miami Heat: Positional Preview of the Christmas Day Showdown

Ethan Norof@ethan_norofCorrespondent IDecember 25, 2010

LeBron still has a lot to learn from Kobe.
LeBron still has a lot to learn from Kobe.

The long-awaited showdown is finally here.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh travel to Los Angeles to take on Kobe Bryant and the two-time defending world champions for the teams' first matchup of the regular season.

After the Heat signed the big three in the offseason, they were seen as the odds-on favorite to take home the title. But wait a minute, what about the Lakers who had just won two straight titles? 

When the Heat got off to just a 9-8 start, many thought they were going to have trouble playing together all year long. Then, the team rattled off 12 straight wins, and they were once again favorites for the title.

On the other side, the Lakers are struggling to find the same dominance that they enjoyed last season. Looking surprisingly mediocre by their standard this season, the Lakers have already lost to lesser teams like the Suns, Pacers, Grizzlies and Bucks.

But at this point, the regular season is just an extended version of the preseason for the Los Angeles squad as they know that a playoff spot is virtually guaranteed barring something drastic.

Despite the shortcomings that each team has had thus far in the early part of the season, the Lakers stand at 21-8, third in the Western Conference, and the Heat at 22-9, second in the Eastern Conference. With this being perhaps the biggest regular season game in NBA history, it's much more than just LeBron vs. Kobe. It doesn't matter that each superstar is saying it's just another game, because frankly, it just isn't.

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Point Guard:
Derek Fisher vs. Carlos Arroyo

Neither team relies heavily on its point guard to dictate the flow of the offense, but each could be a bigger contributor than most expect. With each team keying in on more offensively threatening players, there should be plenty of wide open shots for each point guard to take if they so choose.

Arroyo is a career 33.7 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but this season he's shooting an unreal 50 percent from downtown thanks to the presence of his new teammates on the floor. Fisher, one of the best clutch shooters in the game, has seen his scoring dwindle this year, but he could get off to a hot start if the Heat look to shut down the others.

Edge: Push


Shooting Guard:
Kobe Bryant vs. Dwyane Wade

Heat fans aren't going to like this one, but there's simply nobody in the NBA capable of containing the Black Mamba. After getting ejected from his last game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Bryant has not spoken to the media. Unlike LeBron, Kobe quietly prepares for his primetime matchups and will be looking to send a rather loud message to the rest of the league in this game.

Wade's gimpy knee is going to hamper him slightly, and there's just no way that Bryant is going to let him go for a big afternoon on the Lakers' home floor.

Edge: Lakers


Small Forward:
Ron Artest vs. LeBron James

Now it's time for Lakers fans to be upset. Despite Artest's promise to "make LeBron angry," that might actually backfire for the Lakers as James appears to be already motivated enough for the matchup.

Artest hasn't been able to do much of anything for the Lakers this season, but hopefully his big body and defensive grit will prove to be enough of a menace to James to get into his head and throw him off. But LeBron is going to get his.

Edge: Heat


Power Forward:
Lamar Odom vs. Chris Bosh

Bosh might be a fairly mobile power forward, but is he really going to step out onto the perimeter to guard Odom? Even Phil Jackson has stated that Odom deserves to be an all-star this season, and he rarely gives open praise to his players midseason.

Although CB got off to an absolutely horrendous start, he's really come on of late. Looking very much like the player that he was in Toronto, Bosh could wind up being too tough for Odom to handle throughout. However, if the real LO shows up, it's going to be just fine.

Edge: Push


Center:
Pau Gasol vs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Does this one even need an explanation? The Heat might have a plethora of big men on the roster, but all of them combined aren't equal to a single Gasol.

Edge: Lakers


Bench:
Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Andrew Bynum vs. Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Joel Anthony

Mike Miller has looked atrocious since his return, Anthony is strictly used to soak up fouls, and Chalmers has been on the steady decline since his rookie season.

Although Blake hasn't provided the spark that the Lakers had hoped, Barnes has been exceptional for the team this season. The return of Bynum is going to give the Heat fits when he, Gasol, and Odom are all on the court together, and he is truly the X-factor in this matchup.

Edge: Lakers

Look for the Lakers to take it home on Christmas Day. 

Happy Holidays, readers. 

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