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Lakers vs. Heat Preview: A 2020 NBA Finals rematch that couldn’t look more different

The Lakers and Heat meet on Wednesday in a matchup of rosters that bare striking differences from how they looked when the two teams battled in the 2020 NBA Finals.

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2020 NBA Finals - Game Six Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers broke their two-game losing skid on Monday, prevailing 126-123 against the Charlotte Hornets in overtime. The extra five minutes really shouldn’t have happened, as the Lakers let go of a 110-99 lead that they had with 5:10 remaining in the game due to some costly turnovers from Russell Westbrook as well an insane five free-throw possession for LaMelo Ball that resulted from an ill-timed delay of game and a couple of ill-advised technicals.

Still, a win is a win, and that’s all the Lakers can really ask for as LeBron James mends from his abdominal strain while they continue to wait for the season debuts of Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza, and Kendrick Nunn. Even with late-game mistakes, the Lakers are talented enough with Anthony Davis and (an apparently rejuvenated version of) Carmelo Anthony that they can beat a team like the Hornets, who had lost four straight heading into the contest.

Unfortunately, they face a far tougher test on Wednesday in the form of a team that feels very familiar for an Eastern Conference opponent, as Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat will pay a visit to the Staples Center just a little over a year after the Lakers defeated the Heat in six games to win the 2020 NBA Finals.

This offseason, the Heat also created their own three-headed monster by signing Kyle Lowry to join Butler and Bam Adebayo. It’s given them much better early results than what the Lakers have been dealing with from their own new Big 3, as they come into the game with a 7-3 record, currently tied for 2nd place in the East.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra has his team playing elite, balanced basketball as they are one of only four teams currently sitting in the top 10 for both offensive rating (3rd) and defensive rating (6th). It’s been much smoother sailing this season than last year was for the Heat — who paid a similar “bubble tax” as the Lakers — on both ends with Kyle Lowry on board, although Tyler Herro’s return to Bubble Herro has also helped, as he might have an even better claim to Sixth Man of the Year than our own Carmelo Anthony, while averaging 20.3 points per game off the bench.

Speaking of Melo, that brings us to the main thing to look out for in this one.

Keep doing the thing where you score a lot, Carmelo

Melo could probably catch up to Tyler Herro’s 20.3 points per game if he just played at Staples Center every evening. He’s currently averaging 20.6 points per game in the Lakers’ eight home games, compared to 9.7 points per game in the three road games. The special play at home has endeared himself to Lakers fans already, as he gets the crowd going simply by checking into the game.

Most recently on Monday, Anthony was the team’s second-leading scorer (behind Anthony Davis) with 29 points that included an absolute barrage of 3-pointers on 7-10 shooting from distance. One of the most difficult of Anthony’s seven connections from deep came with around two minutes left in overtime, helping the Lakers recapture the lead 122-121 before closing things out:

With the Lakers’ early schedule skewing heavily towards games at Staples, we’ll have to see how far Anthony’s 3P% drops from its current mark of 52.0% as more road contests start to happen. Either way, for the moment, the Lakers are just happy he’s here on their team instead of sitting at home watching games like he was doing only a couple of years ago.

Notes and Updates:

  • LeBron James, Trevor Ariza, and Kendrick Nunn will all remain out. Talen Horton-Tucker will be out as well, however, he was cleared for full contact starting on Tuesday, with his debut seemingly on the horizon.
  • Austin Reaves makes his first appearance on the injury report this season, as he and Rajon Rondo will both be questionable with left hamstring strains that they apparently picked up against the Hornets.
  • Anthony Davis is probable with his thumb sprain, however, his ongoing sickness should be noted, as he apparently threw up in between the third and fourth quarters of the Hornets game after leaving early with the illness on Saturday against the Trail Blazers.
  • The Heat will be hungry for a win after their most recent game against the Denver Nuggets, one that saw them trail all game with the Nuggets’ lead extending to as much as 23 during the second half before the Heat ultimately lost.

Further insult and injury happened when Lakers champion Markieff Morris dished out a hard foul to reigning MVP Nikola Jokic late in the game, only for Jokic to respond with an even harder shove directly to Morris’ turned back. Jokic was ejected, but the incident had Jimmy Butler irate, leading to this hilarious picture of the Heat “wanting to fight” the Nuggets after the game.

It also led to a back and forth between Jokic’s brothers and Markieff’s twin, Marcus Morris. No, I am not making this up.

  • On the Heat injury report, Victor Oladipo hasn’t made his debut for Miami yet, while guard Max Strus was out in their most recent game against the Nuggets. Morris has been deemed day-to-day after the Jokic cheap shot.

The still-battered Lakers will need to hope the Heat aren’t looking to vent their frustrations on them when the two sides tip off at 7 p.m. PT. This game will be nationally televised on ESPN, and locally broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet.

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