Tonight and tomorrow night mark the second game against an opponent after Lakers wins (Miami on 2/10 and Portland on 2/26). Against Atlanta, another team the Lakes played twice in a short period of time, the Lakers had the fire in their eyes from losing the first game, hopefully they will be similarly motivated tonight.
When the Lakers met the Heat in Miami it was shortly after the Shaq trade and in the middle of the Lakers monster road trip. Now the Lakers catch the Heat at STAPLES Center, but also a Heat team that much more familiar with the new construction of the team. That game was tight until the third quarter when the Lakers opened a 17 point lead, only to see the lead whittled down to 4. They were able to seize control after that to seal the 10 point win.
The Lakers are coming off the toughest win of their 9 game win streak. The team was off through the first half, but held the Blazers to 14 points in the third quarter and cruised to a much more difficult win that the final score line of 96-83 suggests.
The key to tonight will be to limit penetration by Dwyane Wade, who’s favorite target for a drive and dish, Udonis Haslem, is back in the line-up. The Lakers interior defense will need to stiffen as well and prevent another 22 point effort from Mark Blount. On the offensive end, the Lakers are at their most successful when they share the ball (31-6 when they have more assists than the opponent) and everyone gets involved (28-4 when 5 or more players score in double figures).