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Lakers vs. Heat Preview: There’s work to do

Let’s try this again.

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NBA: Finals-Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers were ready to win a championship on Friday. They were so prepared to win that Anthony Davis wore gold Kobes. Lakers fans were ready to celebrate a championship from the comfort of their homes, too.

Unfortunately for the Lakers and their fans, the Miami Heat weren’t ready to go home just yet, and forced a Game 6. Now, everyone will get to experience all of the emotions that they felt on Friday again on Sunday, except there’s more pressure on the Lakers to win now.

Not only will the Lakers be the “away” team on Sunday, but they have to beat Miami in order to avoid a series-deciding Game 7 on Tuesday. The stakes have never been higher for this team. And yet, there isn’t a sense of panic in the locker room — not even a little bit.

“We still have to realize we’re up in the series,” Anthony Davis said in his postgame interview on Friday. “But we definitely use this (loss) as fuel. We wanted to come out and win the game, especially wearing those jerseys. But you come back, you look at the film, fix your mistakes and then come out in Game 6 remembering how close we were. If we don’t make our mistakes, we win the game ... We (need to) win one; they have to win two.”

That doesn’t mean the Lakers will go into Sunday’s game expecting to win doing the same things they did on Friday, though. They know they have work to do, starting the with the amount of effort they show on the defensive end.

“I think we just waited too long to start playing our brand of basketball,” Alex Caruso said of his team’s performance in Game 5. “We were just kind of trading punches, going back and forth through the game. We’d get close, make a couple of mistakes, they’d extend it to seven or eight, we’d get close again and then they’d do the same thing. We finally took the lead and were one play short at the end.”

The key to Game 6 will be limiting those mistakes, which shouldn’t be hard to do given the sheer volume of defensive lapses they had in Game 5. Yes, the Heat fought hard, but the Lakers didn’t make them fight as hard as they’ve had to in their last few matchups.

The Lakers’ supporting cast also can’t be stood up by the Heat’s supporting cast again. That doesn’t necessarily mean someone needs to go off for 20-plus points; it just means they have to play their roles better than they did on Friday, which, again, shouldn’t be too hard.

The bigger questions marks are LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and that’s not just because they’re large human beings. James was nearly unstoppable in Game 5. If he wasn’t, the Lakers would have needed a lot more than just a few seconds to try and stage a comeback, and that’s sort of the problem: If James doesn’t have another “closeout LeBron” performance in him, they might be in trouble.

Then, there’s Davis. Davis re-aggravated his heel injury in the second quarter of Game 5 and he clearly wasn’t himself after the fact. The Lakers can probably live with Davis not being 100% when they’re playing offense, but they might not be able to throw Davis on Butler on defense if he’s not moving well. The latter changes the series a lot more than the former.

We’ll see what the Lakers are made of starting at 4:30 p.m. on ABC.

Notes and Updates

  • The big news heading into this one? Alex Caruso is reportedly getting the start over Dwight Howard, his first start of the postseason.
  • Despite Anthony Davis’ injury, the Lakers’ injury report is unchanged from last game.
  • Goran Dragic was originally listed as doubtful with the torn plantar fascia he’s dealt with since Game 1, but for the first time since, the Heat are listing him as active against the Lakers tonight, but he reportedly won’t start. We’ll see how much he plays, if at all.
  • Despite Heat fans’ best efforts, Anthony Davis will not be punished for his exchange with Jae Crowder in Game 5.
  • If you don’t have TV access, you can also sign up to watch the game on fuboTV here.

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

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