In what was noted as the marquee matchup between Kobe Bryant and Lebron James and the preseason favorites, the Thursday night TNT tilt proved two things, the Heat definitely can turn on the switch, and L.A., at 17-22, may want to circle some dates in June for a rematch. Before you dismiss that statement or think me crazy, take a look at what went down in the Miami L.A game that points to the Lakers finally turning their season around for good.
Four points below explain why the Lakers-Heat matchup will be the launching point for the Lakers to the Finals in 2013.
1) Four Points.
With a minute to go the Lakers were down four points.
- Down four with Lebron's virtuoso 39 point, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists effort leading Miami.
- Down four with Dwayne Wade adding 27 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists to aid Lebron.
- Down four with 20 turnovers against arguably the best teamand one of the top 3 defenses of the past two seasons.
- Down four with Kobe Bryant, having his most efficient season to date, shooting 3-16 in the first three quarters and Pau Gasol displaying rust built up from another injury.
They were down FOUR points with a minute to go with all that going against them all night.
2) Defensive energy
Most notably from Dwight Howard. After looking like he just had back surgery for the first two months of the season, Howard displayed a different effort and energy the Laker faithful have grown accustomed to seeing this season. Contesting more shots, fighting on the block, altering shots in the paint and showing the same amount of teeth as usually, but more so in a grimace than a grin. He meant business and seems to be finding himself this season.
Though Lebron and Wade shot a sizzling 28-45 (62%), the rest of the Heat shot a paultry 12-38 (31%), pointing to team defense for the Lakers that has been missing since Mike Brown left the building. And this is against a team deemed the Lakers vast superior in speed and endurance.
3) KOBE SHOT 18% FOR THE FIRST THREE QUARTERS.
If you think that the most competitive and annoyed (yes annoyed) athlete not named Jordan is gonna let that happen again you must be joking. Kobe is shooting 47% from the field on the season, an amazingly strong shooting percentage for a high volume shooting guard like Bryant. To assume that Bryant won't realize his faults from this game and regain that same shooting touch and team balance that he knows will win him championships is foolish.
4) The ball is finding Dwight and the team is getting the payoff.
Dwight Howard is garnering much more attention as his aggressiveness in the paint increases and as the offense begins to go through him more. The balance of using Howard to thwart perimeter defense and Nash and Co. finding open players led to the Lakers shooing 45% against a Miami Heat team allowing 36% and
43% overall (33-76) since Dwight return as the focal paint dweller for L.A.
Four points. Against the stiffest competition, at its best, with the Lakers best player playing way under his standards, with the league's reigning MVP dominating at will, the Lakers were down by four with a minute to go.
Four points that might shape the season from here on out.