Found January 19, 2012 on Purple and Gold Blog:
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The compressed season is supposed to be kind to the young and harsh for the old. But here's 15-year veteran Kobe Bryant leading all scorers in the NBA with a 30.8 points per game average, exactly a point above the younger second-runner Lebron James. Bryant will try to lead the Lakers (10-5) to their second win on the road of the season against last year's Eastern Conference Champions, the Miami Heat (9-4).

The Heat will most likely not have Dwyane Wade (sprained right ankle) and, just reported, Lebron who was sent home after their morning shootaround complaining of flulike symptoms. His availability will be a gametime decision.

Nonetheless, the Lakers will use this game as a gauge on how far they've come as a team early this season, especially on the defensive end. Miami is the NBA's highest scoring team averaging 107.2 points per game. The purple and gold are a perfect 0-3 when allowing their opponents score at least 100, so it's in their best interest to be focused defensively tonight.

However, the Heat have had trouble against teams with numerous scoring options but have only lost once at home. Still, they're defense is currently the 4th worse in the league giving up 99.2 points per outing. Having a balanced attack and keeping both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum constantly involved on offense should pay dividends for the Lakers.

This game has a couple of interesting subplots: Kobe vs. Lebron/Wade (if they play) and Mike Brown coaching against James for the first time ever. We'll see how well Brown knows his former superstar by the way he'll have his team defend him. As for the Kobe vs. Lebron, both players had proclaimed that they can beat each other one-on-one, so we might just see a few back-and-forth between those guys tonight.

Bryant is averaging 24.6 points per game against the Heat in his career but was held to just 20.5 points per last season. James averages a career 27.3 points per contest versus the Lakers but averaged 23 points last year.

Expect Miami to run even more tonight, with or without Lebron, since that is their best chance to beat the Lakers and their two 7-footers. That means that the Lakers must get back on defense and balance the floor on the offensive end to prevent as much easy fastbreaks for the Heat as possible. In turn, the Lakers must make a conscious effort to utilize their bigs in every possession to punish the smaller Heat frontcourt.

But in the end, this is going to be a defensive battle and which team's bench can contribute more. Hopefully, that goes to the Lakers.

The Heat are 4-1 at home and are only 2-3 their last 5 games. The Lakers are 1-4 on the road but have won 4 of their last 5 games.

Matchup of the Game

Kobe Bryant vs. Lebron James: With no Wade in sight, Lebron should get the assignment of guarding Kobe. But that would be a double-edge sword for Miami as that will only leave Bryant salivating at the thought of the challenge alone. Then again, it's possible that it could also leave out both Pau and Andrew on offense for the Lakers. We'll see what happens.

Keys for the Lakers

1. Defense: No matter who shows up for Miami, the Lakers must go on with their defensive plan of stopping the Heat as if the entire team is present. That kind of approach should keep them on their toes the entire game.

2. Bigs: Offense or defense, it's imperative for Gasol and Bynum to be aggressive. They also can't allow the Heat grab more rebounds than they do or this game will be much more difficult to win than it should be.

3. Intensity: If the Lakers treat this as a playoff game, they should be fine. If not, they'll probably will look for that second road win in Orlando tomorrow.

Game Info

@ Miami Heat
When: Tonight at 5:00 p.m. (PST)
Where: American Airlines Arena
TV: TNT
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN
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