March 1, 2018, 3:51 pm
The Lakers (26-34) head to Miami to take on the Heat (32-29) on Thursday.
Los Angeles will try to continue its winning ways, having won three games in a row and 15-of-22. In the Lakers’ last victory, they matched their win total for all of last season, though they still have 22 games remaining to best that mark.
They will have to do so without Josh Hart, who suffered a small fracture to his left hand in practice on Wednesday. Hart had been playing extremely well for the Lakers, providing solid defense, 3-point shooting and a veteran-like presence, even though he is only in his rookie season. He is expected to miss several weeks with the injury.
When the team went to dinner on Wednesday night, Hart needed an assist from Lakers’ point guard Lonzo Ball, who helped cut his steak for him. Ball will also slide into Hart’s spot in the starting lineup on Thursday — a move that was inevitable as Hart was merely filling in for Ball as he recovered from a sprained MCL. Ball will have his minutes restriction lifted from 24 minutes to 30 minutes as he resumes more of his usual role and responsibilities.
Compounding this issue, the Lakers reached a buyout agreement with veteran wing Corey Brewer that morning, before the injury occurred. Brewer is expected to join the Oklahoma City Thunder and his college coach Billy Donovan, as they look to make a run in the postseason.
He will return to a starting lineup that has played extremely well, in particular Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram — the Lakers are 15-12 with Randle in the starting lineup. The Lakers are also 6-1 in games in which Randle starts and Ball plays.
Ingram has been stellar over his last 13 games; averaging 18.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.9 blocks while shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from 3-point range. He is only 20 years old and does not even turn 21 until the beginning of next season.
Miami is led by All-Star Goran Dragic, starting center Hassan Whiteside and most recently, old stalwart Dwyane Wade. Wade returned to the Heat February 9 in the midst of his worst season as a professional, averaging only 11.2 points per game. In their win Tuesday night, the 36-year-old Wade looked like his old self, contributing a season-high 27 points and knocking down a game-winning jump shot to lift the Heat over the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami may need to rely on Wade again on Thursday as they will be without guards Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington, who will both miss the game with quad injuries.
-The Lakers score 107.9 points per game (9th) vs. 101.1 points per game (28th) for the Heat.
-Miami is a solid defensive team, earning a 104.0 defensive rating (7th) while the Lakers are also a much improved defensive team with a rating of 105.3 (11th). One element the Heat are much better at is defending the paint where they allow 43.4 points per game (13th) in contrast to the Lakers who struggle in that regard, conceding 48.5 points per game (29th).
-This metric is particularly pertinent as Los Angeles leads the league at points in the paint with 53.5 points per game compared to Miami who scores only 42.9 points per game (22nd).
-The two teams share an offensive rating of 103.3 points per 100 possessions.
Projected Starting Lineups
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Goran Dragic (PG)
Josh Richardson (SG)
Justise Winslow (SF)
Kelly Olynyk (PF)
Hassan Whiteside (C)
Josh Hart (hand) – OUT
Channing Frye (appendectomy) – OUT
Wayne Ellington (quad) – OUT
Tyler Johnson (quad) – OUT
Time: 4:30 PM PST, 7:30 PM EST
Television: FOX SPORTS SUN, SPECSN/SPECD, NBA TV CANADA,
Radio: 790 THE TICKET, S: WAQI 710 AM, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES