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Lakers vs. Heat Preview: Can L.A. cool off Miami’s sharpshooters?

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The Lakers will face a tough test when they get their second look at the Heat, who have suddenly become one of the best teams in the league.

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NBA: Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Life can move pretty fast in the NBA. Take the Lakers and their upcoming opponent on Friday, the Miami Heat, for example.

The Lakers, for all intents and purposes, have publicly skidded for several of their recent seasons — both and on and off the court — in a burning display of dysfunction and misguidedness. They have been mocked far more than they have been feared, and have been a far cry from sniffing fans’ expectations.

But that changed this past summer. With a slew of roster moves and a coaching change, the Lakers became the Lakers again. With just the decisive and confident snap of a finger. Just like that.

Miami has also seen a similar transformation. While not falling to the depths of the bottom of the standings in recent years like the Lakers have, they have also been unable to make any headway in the Eastern Conference.

There are many who believe one of the worst things in professional sports is to be stuck in the middle. Not competing, not tanking, just there. And that’s where the Heat have been.

While always a competitive team and exceptionally well coached, the Heat had noticeably been missing something. An Alpha. This summer, they found theirs in Jimmy Butler. Whom in nearly every perceivable way, was born to be “the man” in Miami. And thus far, the Heat are reaping the benefits of their own offseason alterations.

After finishing tenth in the East last season and winning just 39 games, Miami has catapulted to second place and are just one of five teams (including the Lakers) to have a top-10 offensive and defensive rating this season, according to Cleaning the Glass.

While definitely boosted by Butler’s prowess on both ends of the floor — as of this article he has the second best “Total RAPTOR” rating in the entire league, according to FiveThirtyEight’s new advanced metric — the team has also benefited greatly from their perimeter shooting, most of which has come from two players: A rookie, and a sophomore who played in just 15 games a season ago.

Tyler Herro is probably a name most know well, and for good reason. The cocky 19-year-old borders the heel line like Razor Ramon, backs it up by hitting outrageously clutch shots and will then run up into your face and let you know about it. No need to look much further in figuring out why Butler loves him so much:

NBA: Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In his last ten games, Herro has helped contribute to the No. 3 rated 3-point shooting team in the league by canning his six attempts a game at a 37.7% clip.

The rookie is not the only shooter the Lakers will have to worry about in their second matchup with the Heat. In fact, how well they contain Duncan Robinson may ultimately decide the outcome of this game. Yes, Robinson, not Butler.

Heading into Friday’s contest, the former G League product is shooting a blistering 44.9% (on seven attempts per game) from three, 46.9% on his catch and shoot attempts and 48.4% on his “wide-open” chances this season from deep. Those are God-like numbers for a player who is set to make just $1.6 million dollars this year.

Fortunately for the Lakers, they have done a solid job defending the perimeter on the year. Currently tenth in opponent’s 3-point shooting percentage, the team also did an exceptional job smothering Miami’s shooters in their first contest, holding them to a dreadful 6-35 from behind the arc in a purple-and-gold win.

It’s probably more than likely the Heat will not shoot so badly this go-around, but if the Lakers can keep close tabs on their shooters and Butler simultaneously, they should be able to shake off any nightlife hinderances from spending Thursday night in Miami en route to another win.

Notes and Updates

The Lakers will take on the Heat at 4:00 p.m. PST, and the game will be televised both nationally on ESPN, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.