The Miami Heat are out to climb back above .500 as their former MVP LeBron James visits on Wednesday night.
Both of these sides have had a tough year, with the Heat struggling to keep pace with the top six in the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers need a boost as they try to haul themselves in the Play-in chase before the end of 2022, but can they make it back-to-back victories in Florida?
The Lakers lost their Christmas Day showcase against the Dallas Mavericks, thanks to a red-hot third quarter from the Mavs.
However, that clash showcased the pressing issue for both teams, as Lebron James and Luka Doncic essentially played one-on-one.
The Lakers were able to return to winning ways with a 129-110 win at the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, but they are up against it in a tough back-to-back.
This is the Lakers’ second night of a four-game South-East swing, with a visit to the FTX Arena looking trickier than upcoming visits to Atlanta and Charlotte.
LeBron powered them to that victory with 28 points, but he ironically returns to Miami without significant help.
This is the city where he formed that famous big three with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but his attempt to do the same with Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook hasn’t gone to plan.
With AD out, the Lakers lack a second top-quality scoring threat. They needed a 21-point night from Thomas Bryant to get over the line against the Magic, but they will find things more difficult against a Heat defence which remains a tough nut to crack.
Things haven’t gone entirely to plan for Erik Spoelstra this year, but the Heat coach has made his team one of the toughest to face in the paint.
The Heat have given up 45.4 points in the paint per night this term, the second-lowest total in the league. The Lakers sit 23rd in that regard, which isn’t a shock given that AD has missed key chunks of the campaign.
However, the concern for the Lakers is that they aren’t a particularly strong side when it comes to perimeter shooting – which is the best way to hurt this Heat side.
The Lakers’ woes when it comes to shooting are well-worn, with many pundits bemoaning the fact that they haven’t stacked shooters around LeBron.
It makes this Lakers’ offense too functional and easy to guard against, especially for a team like the Heat who have little give in the mid-range.
There’s hope both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo could return for the Lakers' visit after the pair missed the 113-110 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Adebayo is the Heat’s standout defender and Butler is the team’s leading scorer, so a return for the pair would be a huge boost.
It’s tough to see how the Lakers win in Miami if the pair return, given the impact they make at both ends of the court.
The hosts are with a -7 handicap and that’s worth considering given how well-positioned they are to shut down the Lakers. Given that LA lack alternatives to LeBron, Spoelstra’s defensive schemes should help to see off the visitors.
However, the Heat’s defending could point to a low-scoring game. Despite the explosive ability of Butler, Adebayo and Tyler Herro, the Heat have one of the slowest sides in the league.
Point guard Kyle Lowry routinely slows the game down, making backing the over on any Heat game a concern.
In fact, they rank last in terms of points per game in the league this term, only jumping to the 28th-best record at home.
With the Lakers 28th in the league in terms of their three-point percentage, it’s hard to see this one turning into a high-scoring game.
Given the respective ages of the two teams’ main ball-handlers – LeBron, Westbrook off the bench and Lowry - expect a slower clash, with under 224 points worth considering at 10/11.