Originally written on Purple and Gold Blog  |  Last updated 10/24/14
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.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

2014 World Series: Game Three live blog

Memorabilia dealer at center of Todd Gurley scandal fired

Colt McCoy on learning he was starting ‘it’s about f—ing time’

Four Questions for Game 3 of the World Series

Percy Harvin not planning on changing

Ricky Williams: People are let down when I turn down weed

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Joe Maddon opts out of contract with Rays

Randall Cobb: Contract situation played role in slow start

Notre Dame WR faces discipline if he hooked up with porn star?

PGA president calls Ian Poulter ‘lil girl’ for Nick Faldo comments

Belichick declines to address Revis' reported tardiness

Texas mayor delays Halloween for Friday night football game

8 NFL records that won’t be broken for a long time

Big trouble for Bruins: Chara out 4-6 weeks, possibly more

Blazers, Seahawks owner Paul Allen gives $100M to fight ebola

'FIFA 15' glitch turns goalie into headless giant with no arms

WATCH: HBO releases trailer of 'The Offseason: Kevin Durant'

Broncos corner snags INT, then takes pregnant wife to hospital

Gurley dressed up as a pirate for Halloween, yelled, 'Free me'

What the return of Luis Suarez means for Barcelona

Nick Saban pens touching letter after high school coach dies

NBA Replay Center readies for its debut on Opening Night

WATCH: Former NBAer delivers vicious flying elbow Down Under

RNS looking to add agents with existing client rosters

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!

Trouble for Bruins: Chara out 4-6 weeks

Joe Maddon opts out of contract with Rays

NBA Replay Center debuts next week

World Series win = Giants dynasty?

Reliving the worst college football game of the last 10 years

NFL teams facing must-win scenarios in Week 8

What the return of Luis Suarez means for Barcelona

Programs with a lot on the line this week

Wilson denies rumored Harvin rift

Lakers: Steve Nash out for season

Is Mack Brown SMU's best option?

Are sports leagues finally getting serious about domestic violence?

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.