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What did we learn about the Heat? Lakers?

Dec 26, 2010, 4:02 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

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.

  1. steelyres211 - Dec 26, 2010 at 5:15 AM

    What we learned is that the Lakers might not be as good as they think they are. Both teams can spout the whole “it’s just another game” nonsense all they want, but everyone (players included) know that some games mean more than others. This was one of those games. The biggest team in the news for the last several months rolls into town and the Lakers either can’t bring their A game, or they just got old since the Finals. The Lakers need to learn that the older you get, the less likely you are to be able to flip the switch and start balling come playoff time.

    • lebronsinsecurity - Dec 26, 2010 at 12:27 PM

      We learned that someone watches ESPN way too much.. Miami & LA are two of the top six or so teams in the game right now, but to read into a loss like that is forgetting the past, as in the last two years.. The Cavs dismantled the Lakers last year on Xmas and everyone overreacted.. It’s really just 1 of 82 games, nothing less, nothing more, just like last year.. Don’t get me wrong, the Heat were impressive, especially their team defense, but did the win really mean anything in the long run?? No..

  2. ocgunslinger - Dec 26, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    We learned the Heat are and have learned how to play team defense. We also learned that the Lakers (who are not at full strength but no excuse) are in the regular season don’t have the same team that they bring into the second season. The Lakers are going to need to bring that desire back into their game or they won’t be in the playoffs beyond the first round.

  3. trueballs - Dec 26, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Why do I have the feeling that LeBron and Kobe will never face off in the Finals? I think the Cavs could have beaten the Lakers last year in the finals, but we’ll never know. Actually, the more I think of Mo Williams and Jamison the more I take that back. But I think the Lakers struggle much more against a superstar than the Celtics. Kobe was not a superstar in the finals…just a star. It’s all about matchups!!

  4. hnirobert3 - Dec 27, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    We learned that Kobe isn’t MJ and will never be MJ. Pau Gasol, while he had a pretty bad game as well, is a much better and more important player to the Lakers now, and last year in the finals, than Kobe is. Hopefully all the nonsense of Kobe being MJ will be laid to rest.

  5. chicogator - Dec 27, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    What we really learned is that ALL the Heat Haters from the beginning of this year’s loss to the Celtics and their subsequent woes couldn’t stop talking about EVERY LITTLE THING AND EACH SPECIFIC GAME as if it was all-reveling and the PROGNOSTICATION OF DOOM

    SUDDENLY…….. it’s just one game, you can’t take anything bout June from just one game……. yada yada yada……..WTF!!!!!

    Really, you Bunch of Hypocrites…. what more can I say; what goes around comes around.

    I know what I learned from this game,

    MIAMI is FOR REAL and their so-called lacks and holes and failings (from all the pundits professionals and prognosticators) are revealed to be a lot less worrisome with a TEAM gameplan and a circle the wagons mentality

    BTW Thanks to ALL the HATERS w/o you The Heat wouldn’t have had anywhere near as much m-o-t-i-v-a-t-i-o-n

    I believe Miami is truly starting to revel in wearing the “Black Hat”

    • passerby23 - Dec 27, 2010 at 5:36 PM

      I do agree with you that the “sky is falling/trade Chris Bosh now/the Big Three will never be able to play together” hyperbole was way overblown by a slow start. I also agree that they are a definite title threat. Their defense is stout and their offense is improving.

      But, while you are upset with the Heat haters for their doomsday-turned-champion hypocrisy, you are doing the very same thing by making much more out of one game than necessary (what were people saying about Cleveland when they beat LA last Christmas?). There WERE lacks and holes which got them off to a slow start, so some of the criticism is not ill-founded. They’ve improved.

      They’ve still lost to Dallas and Boston twice, which means there are still good teams to deal with. Plus, the playoffs are a different game where you can specifically gameplan to beat a team over an extended series as opposed to one game. Boston is the worst matchup for them when things slow down and Miami has to deal with that rugged frontline.

      On top of that, there is the issue with the Lakers. They haven’t beaten a lot of good teams and they’ve laid an egg for than a couple of times this year. I think that has to be considered before giving Miami too much praise.

      I guess what I’m saying is the Heat are for real, but we’re not even halfway through the season. Winning 21 regular season games so far doesn’t prove all the haters wrong. Winning a championship does.

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