In what was their first non-exciting game since the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Lakers fell flat in their last contest against the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
With two of the quickest paced teams in the league, fans tuning in expected an entertaining nationally televised contest, but were instead met with an NBA game that was subpar, to say the least, as both teams entered the game drastically shorthanded.
Playing with a thin bench is not unfamiliar territory for the Lakers, as the team has been without the likes of: Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Channing Frye in this recent stretch. Fortunately for the purple and gold, the team has been able to overcome the bad hand they have drawn and have found ways to win games (7 of their last 10).
This level of resiliency is something they will need to maintain in their Friday night matchup with the Miami Heat, as the team will be once again without Hart, Ingram, and a questionable Kyle Kuzma.
The Heat will also enter STAPLES’ Center short-manned as it is now been made official, the team will be without both center Hassan Whiteside, and guard Dwyane Wade. The South Beach squad may also be without the services of Josh Richardson, who scored 15 points against the Lakers in their previous matchup and is shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc on the season, as he like Kuzma, is listed as questionable.
The timing of the injury bug is especially painful as Miami is still jockeying for playoff position. The team is currently No. 8 in the Eastern Conference and has a comfortable five game lead over the No. 9 seed Detroit Pistons. Yet, they still have a real opportunity to climb up the ranks by season’s end as they are only a half game behind No. 7 seed Milwaukee and a game and a half behind the current No. 6 seed Philadelphia 76ers.
The team have currently not done themselves any favors in this hunt though, as they have lost 3 of their last 5, including an overtime loss in their most recent contest to the weary Sacramento Kings.
For more on the Miami Heat, the Lakers, and the game, I was fortunate enough to receive insight from Hot Hot Hoops’ very own Brandon Di Perno:
“Miami’s main issue headed into this one would be their health,” Di Perno said. “They’re a very deep team, but their bench won’t win them games by themselves. So without Wade, Whiteside and Richardson, Miami just isn’t as strong as they should be. There’s a reason Wade and Richardson find themselves playing the whole fourth quarter and that’s because they rarely make costly mistakes.
“The Lakers’ options should scare the Heat, whose defense has just not been up to par over the last two games (notwithstanding Justise Winslow, he’s been very solid). There is a chance Miami comes out against LA renewed and ready to fight after debriefing on Wednesday’s loss, but I just don’t see them being overly competitive with the injuries,” he added.
Brandon’s intial hesitation about the Heat’s chances are valid as on the season when the Heat have been without the trio of Whiteside, Wade, and Richardson on the floor, the team is giving up a whopping 111.9 points per 100 possessions per cleaningtheglass.com.
Not that the Lakers need a reminder of not taking a wounded team lightly (see their last game) but this same team without that trio are also scoring a stellar 111.8 points per the same amount of possessions on offense this season.
Brandon also mentioned the name of Justise Winslow in his rundown (a player Lakers’ fans are currently holding resentment towards for causing Brandon Ingram’s groin strain in the the two team’s previous match-up during an in-air collision) pointing out his solid defense recently, and is also my player to watch for this one.
Winslow’s defense has for the most part of his young career been the most consistent component of his game. On the season, when the 21 year old has been on the floor for Miami, the team is sporting a 104.2 defensive rating (which compared to the league would rank as the 3rd best defense). Winslow’s defense mostly derives from his impressive combination of size and foot speed, which help him cover nearly every position on the floor, exemplified here against Portland’s C.J. McCollum:
The area of Winslow’s game that has been the brightest spot of late is his offense. The career 33 percent shooter from three, has shot 53 percent from beyond the arc on 3 attempts per in his last five games for the Heat, an encouraging sign for fans who have waited for the day J.W finds his stroke.
On the Lakers’ front, for fans and those who cover the team primarily on a daily basis, hearing the feedback on the group from someone on the outside looking in is always a interesting conversation to be held. So I asked Brandon what he thought of this specifc Lakers’ crop heading into the game:
“The Lakers are rolling right now, and if it wasn’t so late on the season I’d think they were playoff bound. They’re a fun young team, with a lot of offensive weapons. Really, I haven’t been drawn to watch the Lakers this much since 2013,” Di Perno said.
...And fun this team has been.
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet/NBA TV
Special thanks again to @Brandon_DiPerno, who also just spoke exclusively with Justise Winslow. You can read that interview, and more from Brandon over at Hot Hot Hoops.