Defending champions LeBron James and the Miami Heat take on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night in a nationally televised game worth watching—or at least recording on the DVR.
On Wednesday night, the Heat completely dominated the Golden State Warriors. Granted, the Warriors were missing Stephen Curry, their best player, due to a right ankle sprain suffered in shootaround, but the Heat sent a clear message in the manner they disposed of the Warriors.
After three quarters, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat were up by 30 points, and they were out-running the young, fast, and athletic Warriors in their own building. The Heat had 22 points off turnovers compared to only four points for the Warriors at that point. Miami spent Wednesday night showing Golden State how to play fast-break basketball—the Warriors’ brand of basketball.
After three quarters, James, Wade and company had 22 fast-break points to only two points for the Warriors. None of the Heat’s five starters played a minute in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, so they should be well-rested for Thursday night’s meeting against the Lakers.
Points off turnovers and fast-break points should scare the Lakers, as turnovers and speed are two major chinks in the Lakers’ armor. The Lakers are the fifth-worst team in the league at 15.3 turnovers per game, so the Lakers need to be extra careful with the basketball.
The Lakers have played significantly better the last two games, and Pau Gasol is officially back with the team. Coach Mike D’Antoni announced that Gasol would not start due to his lack on conditioning, but the bench role was not a permanent shift. He expected Gasol to be back in the starting lineup come Sunday in Toronto.
Birthday boy Earl Clark was also at the shootaround and expressed his excitement at staying in the starting lineup. He said he felt much better following a couple days with flu-like symptoms. Clark announced that he would start out by defending Chris Bosh.
Clark revealed that Metta World Peace drew the difficult assignment of attempting to stop LeBron James, the leading candidate for this season’s Most Valuable Player award. Kobe Bryant was expected to start the game defending Wade, but the Lakers’ coach said those assignments would change as the game progressed.
In any case, two of the biggest stars in the NBA will likely end up going head-to-head at some point, and that makes Thursday night must-see TV.