Originally posted on Purple and Gold Blog  |  Last updated 1/17/13
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

Jay Gruden gives out primo parking spots to hard-working players

Report: Colts' Jones suspended four games for PED use

Report: Royals have interest in Nick Markakis

Ezekiel Elliott domestic violence 911 call released

Manu Ginobili talks interest in 76ers before sticking with Spurs

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Lakers reportedly have ‘unnamed trade target in mind

Report: Rodman a 'person of interest' in hit-and-run

Draymond Green reaches plea deal in assault case

Evander Kane arrested after turning himself in

Former NFL coach Dennis Green passes away

Michael Vick says he would only sign with contender

Why the Clippers shouldn't break up their big three

White Sox pay homage to Bo Jackson’s bat-breaking skills with bobblehead

Orioles affiliate pay tribute to David Bowie on their jerseys

Report: Rangers pushing trade efforts for Sale

Russell Martin day-to-day after sauna-related mishap

Celtics reportedly unwilling to give up much for Jahlil Okafor

Report: Jay Bruce drawing trade interest

Vitale: Trump’s speech “filled with lies,” might write in Coach K

Report: Nationals ‘want in’ on Chapman sweepstakes

Hornets co-owner blasts NBA, city for taking away All-Star Game

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

Vikings installing massive horn in new stadium

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

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

WATCH: Pop & Timmy have a guys' night out

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker