After the Lakers defeated the Heat 104-94 on the road a little more than two weeks ago, the Heat have continued their season-long struggle, losing four straight games until finally breaking through against the Kings two nights ago.
However, there have certainly been signs of encouragement for Miami of late as they lost to Denver by only a point and stayed with a surging Houston Rockets team in one of their other losses.
Shawn Marion has adapted well to Miami’s offense, even if the team hasn’t experienced any more success than they had when Shaquille O’Neal on the roster. Heading into tonight’s matchup, Marion is averaging almost 18 points, 11 rebounds and three steals for the Heat—slight increases on his averages when he was with the Suns.
Perhaps even more important for the Heat, Dwyane Wade appears rejuvenated following the blockbuster trade, averaging 28 points and over eight assists in his last five games, including back-to-back 33-point performances against Philadelphia and Houston last week.
As a team, the Heat have seen a dramatic increase in points scored, averaging over 100 points a game in the six games Marion has played. Prior to that run, Miami had one of the worst scoring clips in the league at barely 93 points. Unfortunately, their defense has not experienced similar improvement as the Heat are giving up almost 103 points a night over the same stretch—three over their season average.
In their last matchup, the Lakers outscored the Heat by no more than five points in any quarter as Miami stayed within striking distance until a late run by the Lakers finally put them away. While the Heat were no doubt riding a wave of momentum in that game due to Marion’s first appearance in a Miami uniform, their close losses to Denver and Houston should put the Lakers on alert as they go for their tenth win in a row.