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Heat’s depth exposes Lakers’ serious lack of it

Jan 20, 2012, 12:46 AM EDT

Chris Bosh LeBron James AP

One year ago, the table was flipped.

What held the Miami Heat back was a lack of depth — it was the big three and then little else they could count on. It haunted them in the finals against Dallas. The Lakers on the other hand had the sixth man of the year and while there were issues they were the team that could role out a bench that would pull away from yours.

Thursday night, it was Miami’s depth that blew the Lakers out of the water. Miami pulled away the first time the benches came in and controlled the game the rest of the way, winning by a 98-87 score that was not reflective of the butt kicking.

The Lakers did not get the ball inside enough to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to exploit their size advantage, and outside Kobe Bryant started off cold (1-of-8 shooting in the first half). Last season in stretches like this the Lakers counted on Lamar Odom to change the tempo of these games and he could. This season, Metta World Peace can’t do it. In this game guys like Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono got exposed when they came in.

Miami went on a 10-0 run in the first quarter then another 8-0 one early in the second to build a comfortable lead they never relinquished. They did it with balance — Norris Cole, Mike Miller and James Jones all knocked down shots. Sure, LeBron got his, but the Heat as a team were hot, hitting 8-of-11 from three in the first half.

For the Lakers, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum had 21 of 37 Lakers first half points and combined they shot 8-of-17 (47 percent), the rest of the Lakers were 5-of-25 (20 percent).

The Lakers lack of depth, particularly other guys who can create their own shot or a point guard to orchestrate the offense, means that if their big three do not produce, the offense suffers.

Credit the Heat’s defense for some of that, they suffocate space with their speed and athleticism. What’s more their help defense and rotations were sharp — Shane Battier got a lot of help from their big men coming over on Kobe. But the Lakers of a few years ago would have had counters to that.

Miami had it all going. LeBron James was 2-of-3 from three and had 31 points, but he also had 8 assists as the Lakers tried to throw the kitchen sink at him. Chris Bosh was knocking down the midrange and had 15. Even Eddy Curry got his first action in two years and didn’t play poorly.

Simply, the Heat looked like a contender — even without Dwyane Wade (out again with a sprained ankle). They had stars who played like stars, role players who stepped up and a team concept going on.

The Lakers, particularly on offense, looked like a team still trying to figure out how to use its strengths. And the experiments they tried in that regard Thursday failed. Miserably.

  1. anilyzerr - Jan 20, 2012 at 1:19 AM

    The Lakers missed some shots, while Miami made some shots. The Lakers offense wasn’t really clicking, although they did make some nice plays, and Miami made some great defensive plays and handled the ball well.

    Having Odom on the Lakers wouldn’t have affected this game much at all… the way it played out, the Lakers still would’ve lost. With some different bounces, and Kobe getting hot earlier, the Lakers could easily have won this game by 10, and again having or not having Odom wouldn’t have made a lick of difference–his single game stats usually being more or less coincidental with how the game played out or whether it was a win or a loss for the Lakers.

    Just look at his impact in Dallas, which, if we are honest about it, is exactly what we could and should expect from him playing at his usual level, and is not some bizarre anomaly, requiring a special character narrative and set of explanations and excuses about “Lamar” every time Dallas takes the court.

    We could jump ahead in time by just turning the volume on the Lamar story way down NOW instead of later on this season, by just realizing that he is more or less just an average player. I did mention to some Dallas fans at the time of the trade “prepare to be underwhelmed”… and I guess I am somewhat amazed at how much denial goes along with their being underwhelmed. Anyways, this shouldn’t be the focus of the NBA. And honestly he was creeping me out a bit at the end of the Laker game. How about everybody just move on, play ball, or not, or whatever.

  2. david8726 - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:20 AM

    What this game really showed is that, when faced with a good defensive team, Kobe has to be amazing for them to win.

    Other than Kobe, they have nothing on the perimeter that scares you. The Miami defense easily shut down the likes of Barnes, Fisher, and Artest.

    Gasol and Bynum had decent enough offensive games, but it wasn’t nearly enough to compensate for Kobe being bad through three and a half quarters.

  3. asublimeday - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:29 AM

    The lakers are no longer an accurate barometer against whom you can measure a good or bad team.

    • jimeejohnson - Jan 20, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      Add the Celtics to your statement.

  4. chuckj1234 - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:39 AM

    Like the author said it is the bench for the Lakers. I knew it at the beginning of the year. A bunch of castoffs.

  5. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 20, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    Going to be an awesome year!

  6. millybo - Jan 20, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Lets face it guys the Lakers are not at the same level they were last year and last year they did not win the championship! I am a die hard Laker fan but the truth is that this years team is very good team but not a championship team. It will require an injection of additional players primarily at the Guard and Forward positions. I love Fisher and what he has done for the team in the past but we are asking too much from him at this stage of his career. Kobie is Kobie! but without an adequate supporting cast he will have to be superman every night. I am sorely disappointed that we did not improve our team over the last year. Can anyone say welcome Dwight Howard?

  7. southbeachtalent - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    Like the new uni’s.

  8. tcclark - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    Heat’s Depth? Seriously? This game had nothing to do with the Heat’s bench. They out-scored the Lakers bench by 7 points. No heat reserve scored in double figures and Norris Cole, Mike Miller, and James Jones combined to shoot 36% and score 10 points. They only “knocked down shots” in the most literal sense of the word.

    I don’t usually comment on your Heat love affair because sometimes it’s justified, but come on. This is ridiculous. If you want to talk about how bad the Lakers bench was, go ahead, but to sit hear and lie to the American public about how the Heat have solved their depth issues is just bad reporting. If you want to watch a team with depth watch Dallas or Philly. There are multiple guys on each of those benches that could outscore the entire Heat bench on any given night. Those teams have depth. The Heat have Eddy Curry. ’nuff said

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      The bench does more than score. You don’t think Shane Battier, subbing for an injured D-Wade, had an effect on the game? You don’t think the Heat benefits with Cole’s minutes over Mike Bibby’s minutes? Miller’s shooting wrist has healed. Haslem’s foot has healed. Curry played better last night than Dampier/Magliore ever did.

      Heat embarrassed Dallas already this season. Heat plays Philly tomorrow night. Without Wade. Again. We’ll see really soon if the Heat can meet the challenge.

      • tcclark - Jan 21, 2012 at 1:47 AM

        I never said that the Heat’s bench wasn’t improved from a year ago. All i said was that their problems have definitely not been solved, the fact that you have Eddy curry coming off the bench proves that.

        I also never said that Philly or Dallas were better than Miami. I said that they have more depth than Miami. The Sixers have 7 guys that average 10 points or more, 3 of whom come off the bench. That’s depth. And yes there is more to a bench than scoring. Look at my links below and they’ll show you that those 2 benches do a lot more than the Heat bench, which justifiably doesn’t play as much because of Miami’s starter.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 21, 2012 at 9:56 PM

        Scoreboard

    • cidminion - Jan 20, 2012 at 11:23 AM

      If you’re going to make a comment about depth regarding the Heat atleast bring more to the table than points. Its not just about points. Its about defense, hustle, energy, intelligence, rebounding, etc. If you’re going to stick to one stat line ya you’ll probably make a decent argument.

      What you didn’t mention was the hustle that the heat bench showed. The stupid fouls . No defense what so ever. How many balls were the lakers running down last night? How many times did you see a Heat bench player running around scrambling for rebounds? I promise you that most of our bench rebounds came off of pure hustle not balls falling in there laps.

      Does Miami have the best bench in the league? Maybe not, but its pretty damn close. nothing to be taken away from the bench’s of Dallas, Philly or the Thunder because they’re all solid. But don’t take away from Miami’s bench because the lakers looked bad last night.

      • miamatt - Jan 20, 2012 at 1:52 PM

        Not to mention they did this without Wade. Battier had 11 points and six boards in his place, while Haslem gave eight and eight off the bench. More than the numbers though, Miami’s bench contributed to their suffocating team defense and rebounding. Gasol and Bynum combined for 20 boards but the Heat as a team won that battle.

        No overwhelming statistical performances outside of LBJ, but nickels add up.

        Battier’s perimeter defense and timely three point shooting was exactly what the Heat had in mind when they targeted him this offseason.

      • tcclark - Jan 21, 2012 at 1:58 AM

        Ok things other than scoring

        Total Bench Defense Rankings
        Dallas 19th Philly 14th Miami 28th

        Bench Steals
        Dallas 2nd Philly 8th Miami 16th

        Bench Rebounds
        Dallas 3rd Philly 2nd Miami 9th

        Bench Assists
        Dallas 2nd Philly 3rd Miami 23rd

        There are more but i think you get the picture. As for hustle, there isn’t a stat that i can give you to show you hustle, but if you’ve ever seen Thaddeus Young play a basketball game than you’d know that the Sixers have plenty of hustle coming from the bench. Miami doesn’t need a great bench. they have great starters. the Lakers bench is AWFUL, i agree.

    • david8726 - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      Uh, it’s kind of a big deal when one bench out scores the other bench by 7 points, especially when we’re talking about the Heat.

      In the past, one of the ways you beat the Heat was by taking advantage of their bench.

      This time around, there were multiple points in this game (especially in the third quarter) where the Heat actually extended the lead when LeBron was sitting and bench players were in, supporting Bosh.

      That’s huge.

      • tcclark - Jan 21, 2012 at 2:01 AM

        @david

        i agree. it’s great for Miami to outscore an opponents bench, but the Lakers bench is putrid. it shouldn’t be a sign that the Heat’s bench is amazing by outscoring World Peace and company by 7.

        They played well last night, but this article should be about how bad the Lakers bench is, not how great the Heat bench is.

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 20, 2012 at 3:39 PM

      Nothing to do with the Heat’s bench huh…

      Initially I didn’t really read your long winded response. Now that I’ve had some time to digest your ridiculous “point” I have this to say…… Dwayne Wade. Remember him? He was on our bench. James Jones was playing for him. For God’s sake we played Eddy Curry and he actually scored. Battier was a beast, Haslem was also a beast. Miller was great as was Cole.

      You see I just started watching last year :) and even I understand that the bench doesn’t necessarily have to score tons of points, they have to create plays and defend well. Both of which we did.

      And for my sanities sake I hope you were just kidding about Dallas and their depth…. I mean seriously…

      • david8726 - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:11 PM

        lmfao, outstanding point.

      • tcclark - Jan 21, 2012 at 2:10 AM

        There are different philosophies on how to handle your bench. The Heat have amazing starters so all they really expect out of their bench is to keep them in the game until they can get LBJ, Wade, and Bosh back in the game.

        In Philly, the bench is used as a spark. The starters aren’t really much better than the reserves so the Sixers use their bench guys like Williams, Young, and Turner to come in and score a lot of points on another team’s reserves. They just happen to also create plays and defend well.

        I’m not kidding about Dallas and their bench. 5 of their top 8 scorers come off of the bench. their bench is better than their starters.

  9. rodge1 - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    @tcclark

    LOL!!… Dallas and Philly are your comparisons? You must not have cable or access to watch any games.

    • tcclark - Jan 20, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      I don’t really know what you mean by “comparisons” because if you read my post I was contrasting miami’s bench with Dallas and Philly’s benches. Meaning Dallas and Philly – Good. Miami – Bad.

      Now if you are trying to tell me that those two teams don’t have the best benches in the league than you’re dumber than I thought. Let me throw some numbers at you.

      Dallas’s Bench is ranked first in Offense, 3 pointers made, 3 pointers attempted, defensive rebounds, and field goals attempted. They are second in steals, assists, and rebounds. They are third in FT attempts, FT made, Field Goals made, and Efficiency

      Philly is first in field goals made. Second in field goal percentage, field goals attempted, and efficiency.They are also 3rd in rebounds, defensive rebounds, Offense, and 4th in assists.

      Plus I have watched every single Sixers game on the year and have seen several Dallas games as well and can tell you that they are the two best benches in the NBA. If you still don’t believe me here are the sources for you.

      http://www.hoopsstats.com/basketball/fantasy/nba/philadelphia-76ers/bench/rankings/12/23/7

      http://www.hoopsstats.com/basketball/fantasy/nba/dallas-mavericks/bench/rankings/12/6/7

      Oh and here is miami’s… 25th in offense, 28th in defense
      http://www.hoopsstats.com/basketball/fantasy/nba/miami-heat/bench/rankings/12/15/7

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:39 PM

        Tell you what. You can take Dallas and Philly. I’ll take Miami. Good luck.

      • tcclark - Jan 21, 2012 at 2:11 AM

        Can I take Miami’s starters and Philly’s bench? The whole rosters were never a question. Just the benches.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 21, 2012 at 9:58 PM

        No. You keep Philly’s bench.

  10. footballisking - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    The heats depth LOL..Cant wait till they come to OKC and see real depth..dont worry kurt Thunder nation will buy you front row seats to watch your man crush le’brick get schooled

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 20, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      LOL at the Heat’s depth….. I guarantee if Durant or Westbrook can’t go they don’t stand a chance. We on the other hand can afford to rest Wade, and still hand it to you.

  11. cannon9 - Jan 20, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    I never thought I would ever say this but, man…. the lakers are really hurting without steve blake

  12. jimeejohnson - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Gotta mark both Heat/Thunder games on my calendar: 3/25 at OKC and 4/4 at Miami. These two teams should be “in shape” by then, and put on a show worth watching. DWade is expected to play, sarcasm intended. These two teams take over for the failing Lakers and Celtics as THE games to watch. Love to see a small market team like OKC do well, but like Miami’s chances to go…all…the….way to the NBA Finals and make up for last years crushing defeat to Dallas.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      In 2008 when the Heat won 15 games, Miami was a small market too.

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