Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Lately it’s been pretty cold here in Los Angeles. Unusually cold in fact. But the temperature is on the rise and perhaps its not coincidence that the upswing in degrees on the thermometer arrives just as the Miami Heat do.
Tonight the Lakers have the opportunity to make a very bold statement against the NBA’s defending champions. Riding a modest two game win streak yet looking better in most aspects of the game, the Lakers are entering the make or break portion of the season.
Still outside of the playoff picture. Still below .500. Still without a true identity as a team, it’s now or never for the Lake Show.
Coming into the contest tonight the Heat haven’t been playing their best ball. Although the Golden State Warriors, who the Heat took apart last night, might beg to differ. Overall Miami has won 5 of its last 10 certainly a dip in their performance yet still good enough to keep them atop the East. A little controversy has also crept into the Heat camp over the benching of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the fourth quarter of a close contest.
That’s sounds a little like what Pau Gasol went through early on during his transition to the Mike D’Antoni way. Speaking of Gasol, there is a chance he might play tonight and that will prove critical.
With Gasol the Lakers are a better team even if he hasn’t been the same player. Without Pau the burden falls on a constant rotation of players asked to step up on any given night. Earl Clark became the most recent Gasol fill-in to toss his name into D’Antoni’s hat for help from unusual sources.
Of course the man you can always count on this season is Kobe Bryant who is having a career year. KB24 and LeBron James as always will headline the NBA’s game of the night. In fact just last night James surpassed Kobe to become the youngest to ever score 20,000 points in an NBA career.
But that is all window dressing for the passive fan. Lakers faithful don’t need any added drama to watch this game or any other for that matter. From here out every game is a must-win and each contest is another opportunity to get back on track.
The season is officially in the balance as it now becomes a math equation. There are only some many games left and only so many playoff spots. If the Lakers have any desire to at least get a ticket to the dance then need to win but more importantly they need to beat teams that are ahead of them.
By conference alignment the Heat have no bearing on L.A.’s playoff standing but a win against an elite team will go a long way. Simply put the Lakers need to beat the Heat. Mike D’Antoni needs the validation and the Lakers need to show they do indeed have some sort of a championship pulse.