Tag: Lakers Heat Christmas Day

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

What did we learn about the Heat? Lakers?


On Christmas 2009, LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers thumped the Los Angeles Lakers pretty good, winning by 15. Come June, that game was meaningless.

That 2009 game looked a lot like the 2010 Lakers/Heat game. Which is to say, the Heat’s 16-point win has no real predictive value. If these two teams do meet again in the finals don’t point back to this game as an example of what will happen.

But this game was instructive. It was a snapshot of where the teams are right now at this moment, and where they need to improve to get to the title they both crave.

We learned some things.

• For the Heat, we learned that their pressure defense can disrupt more than just the lesser lights in the league. That defense is a force. They took the Lakers out of their rhythm, both cutting off passing angles on the wings and not letting Pau Gasol get to his spots on the floor, making him far less effective. They took the Lakers out of the triangle and into the Gasol/Kobe pick and roll — always a sign the Lakers are struggling. (That pick-and-roll worked for a bit but the Heat adjusted and shut it down.)

I was reminded of what Doc Rivers said back before the start of this season — how far the Heat went was going to be decided by how well they played defense as a team. If that is the case, the rest of the league should be worried.

• We learned that Chris Bosh can ball — he was the best big man on the court in this one. Well, actually we knew Bosh could ball. People ragged on him after a slow start to the season but he was a max guy with good reason. Bosh was slow adjusting to being the third option, but he still can be a force and reminded everyone of it today. He was taking what the defense gave him, hitting the jumper when they pulled back and driving on guys when they came out on him. He was very active on defense as well.

• We learned that when LeBron James is dropping threes he is really tough to guard. But we probably knew that, too.

• For the Lakers, we were reminded how this team be so overconfident as to bring their “C” game against anyone. This is a team acting like it will be able to flip the switch. Kobe said it well on the Land O’ Lakers blog.

“We know what we’re capable of doing, that’s the problem.”

• We learned how much the Lakers miss Andrew Bynum. Yes he played, but not the active, conditioned, reacting well and clogging the lane on drives Bynum that the Lakers need. Some other, slower guy was out there trying to recover from surgery.  The Heat in general and Dwyane Wade in particular were getting into the teeth of the Lakers defense on the pick-and-roll and the rotations were terrible. The Heat had a lot of room to operate (and frankly should have won by more than 16).

• More than all that, we learned that this Lakers team is not yet like the ones we might remember from the playoffs — those Lakers teams still found a way to score on the Celtics and other top defenses. Right now, when they get pushed out of their comfort zone, these Lakers look lost. Gasol was bothered by the long arms and athleticism of Bosh. Gasol wasn’t just not scoring, he wasn’t the hub of the Lakers offense (like he is when they are playing well). This lack of comfort should change for Los Angeles — Phil Jackson’s teams usually find their groove later. But right now the Lakers do not have it.

Then again, last year when the Lakers lot to the Heat they went on a run winning five of their next six. This may spark them again, but with their next game Tuesday in San Antonio it’s not an easy road.

Santa puts five games under your tree (or on your new flat screen) for Christmas

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

Phil Jackson and LeBron James may not like having to work — you don’t hear police and emergency room doctors complaining — but Christmas is a bounty for NBA fans. Presents, turkey AND ham, family and five basketball games. Perfect.

Let’s break the games down.

Bulls vs. Knicks (Noon ET, ESPN): This may well be the most entertaining game of the day. The Knicks don’t play much defense do Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose are going to get theirs. With Joakim Noah out, the Bulls have nobody who can slow Amar’e Stoudemire and he is probably going to go off with feeds from Raymond Felton. Both teams are going to score over 100, the tempo will be up and it’s always fun when Madison Square Garden is rocking.

Prediction: Spike Lee gets interviewed and the Bulls win 116-107.

Celtics vs. Magic (2:30 pm ET, ABC): Which Magic team shows up? If it is the one that pushed the tempo and handled the Spurs on Thursday night, this is going to be interesting. That said, the Magic are still feeling their way with the new lineup including Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson – the offensive sets are pretty rudimentary — and that could be trouble against the best defense in the league. However, no Rajon Rondo for the Celtics which means a lot of Nate Robinson, who tends to shoot first and ask questions later, whether he is not or not. Shaq against Dwight Howard could decide this one.

Prediction: Boston extends the winning streak to 15 but it isn’t pretty, 95-90.

Heat vs. Lakers (5 pm ET, ABC): This is going to be fun, the Shaq vs. Kobe showdown… wait, this is not those Heat and Lakers on Christmas? I was so used to that for so many years.

First things first, you can bet Dwyane Wade will be ready to go for this one (he did not play Thursday night). This game will have some spectacular talents — LeBron James, Wade, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom — but it will really be about team defense. Good defensive teams have taken the Lakers out of the triangle and then Kobe tends to run pick-and-rolls, which the Heat defend very well. The Lakers with Andrew Bynum back protect the paint better and can force teams to take a lot of long jump shots, which is a trap the Heat often fall into (and often get away with because they have shooters). Whichever team establishes its game — the Lakers moving off the ball and going through Gasol more, the Heat penetrating and running — will win.

Prediction: Jack Nicholson will go home happy because Kobe closes on the big stage like nobody else, Lakers 93-91.

Nuggets vs. Thunder (8 pm ET, ESPN): No Carmelo Anthony in this one for the Nuggets. The bigger problem for Denver is that Kevin Durant has gotten his groove back in recent weeks and is combining forces with Russell Westbrook in a way that should make the rest of the league a little worried. More than a little, really.

Prediction: Maybe the least entertaining game of the day, Thunder 101-88.

Trail Blazers vs. Warriors (10:30 pm ET, ESPN): Brandon Roy will not play for Portland, which means a lot of Andre Miller. Stephen Curry is a game time decision for Golden State, but less of him is more Monta Ellis. This should be a fun way to close out Christmas Day — look for LaMarcus Aldridge to explode on what passes for interior defense in the Bay Area. Ellis will answer with amazing shot after amazing shot.

Prediction: Just like you at this point in the night the game will be a little sloppy, but the Warriors control the pace and pull it out 108-99.

Let the “it’s just another game” banter begin

2009 NBA All-Star Game

The whole of NBA fandom will be watching the Heat take on the Lakers on Christmas in what will rightfully be billed as a possible finals preview.

So it’s a big deal, as Brett Pollakoff tried to get LeBron James to say to FanHouse. And LeBron went nowhere near the bait.

“If it’s against the Lakers or the Suns or the Nets or whoever the case may be, you don’t want to take a step backwards,” James said. “You definitely want to play some of your best ball against the best teams…

“I don’t think it’s a measuring stick,” James said. “It’s another game for us, and we hope to play well, and we’re looking to play well. It’s a building that they’re very good in, but we don’t look at it saying this is the game that can define our season. It’s not, at all.”

Erik Spoelstra was on the same dull page.

“We’re both in different spots right now. [Our team is] trying to improve; we’re trying to get where they have been. We think we’re improving, we think since the first day of the season we’re one of the most improved teams, and we think we’re ready for it.

“In terms of it meaning more than other games, I think it’ll be a special opportunity for the guys to play on Christmas in front of a great environment, also knowing that people will be watching. We have several people in the locker room that love games that really mean something to the fans. We want to just build on what we’ve done the last three weeks … for the fans, it probably has greater meaning than for the teams.”

We are still learning how good the Heat really are, but they have their clichés down like champions.

Does the game mean a lot because of the stage? Yes. Does it tell us anything about these teams come June? No. So enjoy it for what it is.

Wade game-time decision Thursday with sore knee. Don’t worry, he’ll go on Christmas.

Cleveland Cavaliers  v Miami Heat
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Dwyane Wade missed the Miami Heat’s shoot around Thursday morning in Phoenix with a sore knee. Coach Erik Spoelstra said he would be a game-time decision against the Suns for Thursday night.

The real reason this is news — does this mean he might not go on Christmas Day against the Lakers?

Are you kidding me? For all the talk about this being “just one of 82” it isn’t. It’s a huge showcase game. It can provide some validation for the Heat and the Lakers. It will have no real bearing on the rest of the season or playoffs. It will mean nothing should these teams meet in the finals.

But teams like the big stage, and this is a huge one. If Wade’s leg is still attached, he’ll go.

Bah! Humbug! Phil Jackson doesn’t like playing on Christmas

Image (1) PJackson3-thumb-250x172-12308.jpg for post 2160

It’s really not the Christmas season until Heat Miser and Cold Miser are on the television and Phil Jackson is complaining about having to play on Christmas.

Well, the season is here, because before the Lakers ugly loss to the Bucks Tuesday night Jackson was complaining about having to face the Heat — well, anyone, really — on Christmas.

“It’s like Christian holidays don’t mean to them anything any more,” Jackson said. “Just go out and play and entertain the TV. It’s really weird, but it is what it is. We have to go to work and make the best of it.”

“I don’t think anybody should play on Christmas Day,” Jackson said. “I don’t understand it.”

Remember that Jackson is the son of two ministers and is a very spiritual person. Although that may be less the reason Jackson is cranky, it may just be that he’s older and supposed to be cranky. He knew the Christmas/Lakers deal when he took the job.

Saturday will mark the 12th year in a row the Lakers have played on Christmas.

Last season on Christmas, LeBron James and his Cavaliers beat the Lakers soundly.