Gameday Dish: Heat Hosts Lakers

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Every game down the backstretch will carry the weight of the playoffs for Miami, which sits eighth in the East by a narrow margin. And more is at stake than the postseason. Franchise star Dwyane Wade becomes a free agent this summer and could be a big prize for a predatory team. Wade has to play at the top of his game in order for his team to be competitive in their nightly matchups and might be open to a move unless he’s assured the Heat can build a championship team around him once again.

Although unlikely contenders this year, the Heat can still hold their own against the best in the league when all cylinders are firing. All five starters for Miami finished in double figures last time they faced the Lakers and proved they could take on the top team in the West. Unfortunately the Heat fell victim to a signature Kobe buzzer beater – in this case an admittedly lucky, off-balance three-pointer banked from the top of the key – and wound up losing a one-point heartbreaker. While it’s difficult to control the Kobe factor, the Heat can certainly improve upon their free-throw performances, having hit only 27 of 42 from the line in their last meeting.

Though shoo-ins for the playoffs, this is a huge month for the Lakers, who arrive in Miami to kick off a long stretch of road games on the back end of the season to make up for the early imbalance of home games in their schedule. The Lakers will play 13 of their last 20 games on the road, with four home games and 11 away games this month. They need to get wins against teams like Miami to maintain their momentum heading into the postseason.

Albeit far from over, the regular season has already been a long, physical one that’s rendered both Kobe and Wade worse for the wear. Kobe is still playing through an injured index finger and has struggled with his shooting of late, while Wade recently returned from a calf injury. But ultimately both scoring leaders refuse to let physical setbacks get in the way of game-winning performances. We’ve seen Kobe manifest mind over matter time and time again. And Wade, who usually plays well against the Lakers, delivered a 35-point performance against Golden State on Tuesday. I expect tonight’s Miami vs. LA matchup to pack a lot of heat.

Marv, Reggie and I have the call on TNT tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

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