Originally written on Purple and Gold Blog  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Nba_playoffs_los_e570
Thanks to Kobe Bryant's renewed commitment on defense, the Lakers (17-21) have been playing their best defense as a team the last 2 games, which coincedentally turned into 2 straight wins. A sign of good things to come for the Lakers? It better. Despite their improved defense, the Lakers are still 4 games below .500 and 3 full games behind the 8th seed Rockets in the west. And to make things more interesting, the defending champions Miami Heat (25-12) have come to visit and see just how much the purple and gold have figured out their "D". The Heat are coming off of a 92-75 thumping of the Warriors last night. But Miami are playing their worst basketball of the season losing half of their last 10 games. The Lakers, however, aren't expecting anything less from the Heat than their "A" game. And if they are to defeat the Heat, their defense also better bring the same. After missing the last 5 games due to a concussion suffered against the Nuggets, Pau Gasol will return tonight but is expected to come off the bench. His presence is indeed a welcome sight for the Lakers, but it remains to be seen if he can play enough minutes to be a factor. Lebron James became the youngest player to reach the 20,000-point plateau last night. Even if Miami has their "Big 3", James is the one the Lakers need to focus on defensively. It won't be remotely close to being easy since Lebron is averaging 30-points per game the last 6 times he's been at Staples Center against the Lakers. This is the first of 2 meeting against Miami. These teams won't see each other again until Feb. 10th at the American Airlines Arena. The Lakers have won 4 of the last 5 games at home versus the Heat but are just 2-4 overall since the 2009-2010 season. That's 1-3 since Lebron's "decision" to take his talents to South Beach for those of you counting. Matchup of the Game Dwyane Wade vs. Kobe Bryant: Neither coaches would want to have their best scorer defend one another. That is unless Kobe wants to take on the challenge of guarding Lebron. If not, then Bryant will turn his attention to Wade. Kobe can't allow him to be a factor offensively since Lebron will most likely get his tonight. And if he's having an easy time scoring, that means that Metta World Peace is struggling defensively. But judging how well Metta has been playing so consistently well on that end of the floor makes the scenario unlikely. This is going to be an intriguing game! Keys to the Game > Defense: Due to their lack of size and true post-players, the Heat are at their best on the run attacking he rim. If the Lakers can force Miami in the halfcourt a lot more than in transition, the Heat are going to struggle trying to defend Dwight Howard and Gasol while making sure Kobe, Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark won't get their good looks at the basket. > Inside-Out Attack: A sound defensive game won't mean much if the Lakers doesn't force their strengths on offense. They've been sharing and moving the ball extremely well the last 2 games, so there's no reason for them to fix something that isn't broken. > Bench: Make no mistake, the starters for the Lakers will get tested tonight. Expect a close game, so the 2nd unit for the Lakers cannot afford to miss too many open shots or miss too many defensive assignments or this game will go out of hand for L.A. quickly. Watch Out For HEAT: Ray Allen: The Lakers or their fans shouldn't need any reminder on how dangerous Allen is on offense. This guy seems to be one of those players bred to play well against the Lakers. Definitely not someone to sag off of or lose sight defensively. LAKERS: Dwight Howard: He's nearly at 100% and what better team to see how much of his legs back than the defending champs? If D12 is aggressive on offense, the Lakers stand a great chance of taking the victory. Game Info Tonight vs. Miami Heat Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. (PST) Staples Center TV: TNT (national) Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW Injury Notes HEAT: None. LAKERS: Steve Blake (abdomen) could return within a week. Jordan Hill (hip) is out. Earl Clark (gastroenteritis) is questionnable.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

UMass to retire jersey in honor of John Calipari

Houston Texans are moving on from Andre Johnson

Top landing spots for Darrelle Revis

Mets: Murphy will no longer discuss his religious beliefs

Randall Cobb rejects contract proposal from Packers

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Peyton Manning to take $4 million pay cut with Broncos

Kevin Durant has ‘no doubt’ he’ll return this season

Sidney Rice, Steve Weatherford to donate brains for research

Bills acquire Matt Cassel from Vikings

Report: Free agents ‘leery’ of Chip Kelly after McCoy trade

Report: Steelers hoping Troy Polamalu retires

Nobody’s safe in the NFL and nothing is sacred

Arizona Diamondbacks unveil 'The Churro Dog'

Ray Allen announces he will not play this season

Are the Suns built for the present as well as the future?

Ndamukong $uh billboards springing up all over Detroit

WATCH: Russian youth hockey teams brawl in handshake line

Prince played high school basketball in Minnesota

Thoughts on how the Eagles got to the end of the 'Shady' era

David Wright called out prospect for eating during scrimmage

Murray State pitcher’s leg kick is entirely out of hand

Panthers sign emergency goalie during game due to injuries

Tim Lincecum’s last best chance

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Nobody’s safe in the NFL and nothing is sacred

Tim Lincecum’s last best chance

Ten most underrated players in the NBA

Stevens: LeBron looks like the MVP

Spiller: EJ Manuel learned not to be 'buddy buddy' with everyone

Ten most underrated NFL free agents

Five potential landing spots for Andre Johnson

Texas-Baylor fight leads to 7 ejections

Mark Cuban will be Prez in 'Sharknado 3'

Report: Redskins interested in Suh

Report: Revis likely to hit free agency

Steve Spurrier joins Twitter

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.