A game that was circled on the calendar before the season even began was the potential NBA Finals preview of the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Miami Heat tonight at Staples Center. The Heat (25-12) have played average basketball since their big win over Oklahoma City on Christmas Day, losing six of their last 11 games. The Lakers (17-21) rocky start to 2013 has been well documented on LALakers101 but Los Angeles is riding a two-game winning streak and welcome Pau Gasol back to the court after missing the last five games with a concussion. Gasol will come off the bench with Earl Clark, who will help guard Heat PF/C Chris Bosh, getting the nod at the four. Clark is averaging 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in the Lakers last 6 games. Dwight Howard will start in his third straight game since recovering from a torn labrum in his shoulder. Howard is coming off of a 31 point, 16 rebound performance in the Lakers win over Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Miami is playing its second game of a back-to-back, and sixth game of their current six-game road trip. Miami showed no signs of jet lag beating up on the Golden State Warriors, 92-75, last night. Lebron James posted a double-double but the real story was James reaching the career 20,000 point mark, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to do so. Despite their recent struggles, the Heat are still in first place in the Eastern Division. Miami coach Erik Spolestra has perfected his patented “Pace and Space” offense, one that shares similarities with the Mike D’Antoni offense. The Heat like to get out and run in transition so the Lakers must focus on limiting turnovers and getting back on defense tonight.
#15 World Peace SF #6 James
#6 Clark PF #40 Haslem
#12 Howard C #1 Bosh
#24 Bryant SG #3 Wade
#10 Nash PG #15 Chalmers
The game tips-off at 7:30PM PT at Staples Center on TNT.
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