For the first time in nearly a month, the Los Angeles Lakers consecutive games have lost. On Saturday evenings, the Miami Heat rolled over to Staples Center for one NBA Final rematch and received some semblance of revenge in the form of a dramatic 96-94 win.
The Heat jumped out to an early double-digit lead, moving their advantage to a whopping 15 in the second half. But the Lakers fought back in the second half and even briefly took the lead in the third quarter. While the Heat quickly regained the lead, it was always a bit weak, and their inability to clear the game almost came back to bite them. LeBron James forced a bargain in the closing seconds to give the Lakers a chance to tie or win at the buzzer, but Alex Caruso the effort would not diminish.
Kendrick Nunn led all scorers with 27 points, Jimmy Butler finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Bam Adebayo delivered 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Kyle Kuzma went for 23 points to lead LA in the scoring division, while LeBron James put in an almost triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
Here are some key takeaways from The Heat’s impressive win:
The heat is starting to get back into shape
After their surprise trip to the Final last season, there were high hopes for the Heat this season. But due to COVID-19 and injuries, things have not gone according to plan. Even after their win over the Lakers, they are still well below .500 at 13-17, and looking at the playoff pic on the outside.
The good news for Miami is that it keeps getting better. Jimmy Butler is back after missing 10 games, Goran Dragic are expected to return from his ankle injury after this road trip and have won six of their last nine races. We still don’t see the best version of this team, but they are much closer to that level than they were a few weeks ago.
A big reason for their recent turnaround is that they have been great on the defensive. During those nine games, they allow only 106.3 points per 100 possessions, which equals the second-best defense rating in the league during that period. Against the Lakers, they showed their prowess on that side of the floor, limiting their opponents to just 39.3 percent of the field.
Lakers’ offense struggles without Davis
Anthony Davis is one of the best defensive players in the league, but the Lakers are such a strong unit on that side of the ball that they feel Davis’ absence much more on attack. They miss not only his 22.5 points per game, but also his ability to make his own shot and the attention he draws from the defense.
So far this season, the Lakers have posted an insulting rating of 115.3 with Davis on the floor and an offensive rating of 106.5 when sitting. That’s the difference between the seventh in the league and the 27th. It certainly didn’t help that they played a great defensive team in the Heat, and without it Dennis Schroder, but they were a lot like the last one on Saturday night.
They shot 39.3 percent of the field and only 28.9 percent of 3-point land. Sure, there were a lot of success when LeBron led the show and dictated the game, but all too often they didn’t have answers half way. Even at full blast, they don’t have many guys who excel at making their own shot, and that problem gets worse when Davis is sitting.
The rough part continues for LA
The Lakers’ title defense began in a dominant fashion as they quickly established themselves as the best team in the league. They started 14-4 and took first place in the fraught Western Conference. However, it hasn’t been easy since then.
Even when they were winning for the past few weeks, it was a slog – nail biter against the Celtics, three consecutive overtime hours, late comeback every TimberwolvesNow Davis is out for the next month due to his calf injury, and they are clearly feeling the effect.
They were crushed by the Nets, and now lost to the Heat for their first “lost streak” in nearly a month. They’ve dropped to third in the Western Conference and are struggling to compete against the Jazz Trail Blazers Warriors and Sun tanning before the All-Star break.
On the other hand, we’ve seen how great this team can be, and the most important thing for them is getting to the playoffs at full strength. If they can, this little rough patch isn’t going to mean much.
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