The Los Angeles Lakers continue their trip down the Florida coast as they take on the Miami Heat, after edging the Orlando Magic by nine points on Wednesday night in Orlando. The Lakers are now in the midst of a five-game winning streak after losing to Dallas on the first of the month, and will look to keep the good times rolling with LeBron taking on his old coach in Miami. Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the league, so this is also a huge test for Frank Vogel.
Miami is red hot at the moment and currently find themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference after their addition of Jimmy Butler in free agency. Butler has led the Heat in both points and assists per game and ranks 11th in the NBA in PER.
The Heat might run through Butler, but they have plenty of other options. Goran Dragic remains a very solid point guard, as he’s fourth on the team in shooting percentage while being the third highest scorer on the team; Dragic will be out with an injury on Friday, however. Miami’s true strength lies in its young core consisting of Bam Adebayo, first-round rookie Tyler Herro, and undrafted surprise Kendrick Nunn among others. Nunn, in particular, has been nothing short of phenomenal, coming out of seemingly nowhere to become a crucial player for Miami, as his 16.2 points per game ranks second on the team. Herro is a huge threat from the outside, shooting 37.9% from downtown while taking just over 5 threes per game. But, he’s not one-dimensional, as he has shown an innate ability to score off the dribble and create good looks for his teammates.
The attention Butler and Herro draw means the Lakers need sharp, crisp rotations defensively and must remain extremely disciplined to limit their success. Danny Green, KCP, and crew will need to keep their level of focus extremely high, while Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard will be tasked with stopping Miami’s drives when the Lakers over pursue outside.
Miami has been remarkably efficient on the offensive end this season, sitting third in the NBA in 3-point percentage (38.2%) and fourth in the league in overall shooting percentage (47.5%). Despite ranking in the middle of the pack in terms of rebounds per game, they actually have the second highest rebound percentage of any team in basketball, which is partially due to their efficiency in scoring the basketball. However, despite their prowess on that end of the court, if there is a weakness with this team it’s their defense, where they rank 10th in defensive rating. They actually rank 21st in the NBA in defensive rating in the second quarter, which is when the Lakers are 3rd in the NBA in offensive rating, so this is when the Lakers will look to turn up the pressure.
The Lakers will take on the Heat at 4:00 PST in Miami on Friday.