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Lakers vs. Heat Preview: Can the Lakers finally put together a run?

After spending much of December on the road, the Lakers will be back home in January with a favorable schedule and a chance to make a run.

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In the absence of Anthony Davis, the Lakers have done an admirable job of treading water considering the circumstances. Most of December was spent on the road for the Lakers and just two of the 10 games they’ve played with Davis have come at home.

It’s hard to be optimistic about the current state of the Lakers, but treading water in that span is about as good as one could have realistically expected the team to be. A five-game road trip challenged the Lakers, and they responded with a winning record, largely due to the brilliance of LeBron James.

Now, though, they return home for much of the month of January with a chance to finally make a run, starting on Wednesday against the Heat. According to Positive Residual, from Wednesday through Jan. 25, the Lakers have the fifth-easiest strength of schedule.

Nine of their 12 games in that span come at home, tied for the most in the league in that span. One of the toughest games of that span will come on Wednesday against a Miami team that just beat the Lakers a little more than a week ago.

That contest led to the controversial comments from LeBron James about wanting to compete for titles. To the team’s credit, both on and off the court, they’ve responded positively to that presser with wins in Atlanta and Charlotte.

Now, the Lakers can run it back for a chance at redemption. In that contest at the end of December, the biggest statistical difference was points off turnovers, where the Heat won that battle by an astounding figure of 31-2 after the Lakers committed 26 turnovers.

Every game is different, and it won’t be as simple as the Lakers not turning the ball over, but it was a fairly even game across the board outside of that. The Lakers shot as well as them across the floor, out-rebounded them and had more assists. Again, it’s not as simple “don’t turn the ball over and you win” but the Lakers were in the contest aside from that.

As things are in the Western Conference standings, the Lakers are just outside of the play-in game, two games back of the Jazz in the 10th seed and 3.5 games back of the seventh, eighth and ninth seeds. Only three losses currently separate them and the sixth-seeded Clippers.

In short, this is an important stretch of games for the Lakers starting with Wednesday against the Heat. If the Lakers can get things right, it could be the stretch they finally make a run for the playoff seeds.

Injury Report

  • LeBron James will be out for the contest, the Lakers announced on Wednesday as he’s dealing with a non-COVID illness. Russell Westbrook (left foot soreness) is listed as probable after he did not play in the second half of Monday’s game against Charlotte. Lonnie Walker IV (left knee soreness) and Anthony Davis are also both out.
  • For the Heat, Dwayne Dedmon, Duncan Robinson and Udonis Haslem are all questionable — though Robinson is the only one of those that played against the Lakers last week — while Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent are probable.

Tip-off for the contest is slated for 7 p.m. PT with the game being broadcast on ESPN.

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

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