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Miami Heat vs LA Lakers: 3 key matchups to watch out for | NBA Season 2020-21

Miami Heat stars Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler
Miami Heat stars Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler
Modified 20 Feb 2021

Saturday night at the Staples Center will be a showcase of last season's NBA Finalists as the LA Lakers host the Miami Heat.

The two sides have had differing years so far since the LA Lakers won their 6-game series. LeBron James has continued to lead his side as one of the most dominant teams in the west and as a result, the LA Lakers currently sit second in the division with a 22-8 record.

As for the Miami Heat, injuries and the league's coronavirus protocols have got in the way of them gaining any form of momentum while several stars have been shooting at a worse rate than last season.

Despite this, the Heat do have most of their starters fit and will be looking to take advantage of the LA Lakers while Anthony Davis is still sidelined through injury.

Miami Heat vs LA Lakers: 3 Key Matchups

The Miami Heat have had to endure a variety of lineups this season, though look to be more settled recently. Coming into this fixture, Spoelstra's side knocked off the Sacramento Kings with all 5 starters grabbing double-digit points along with Tyler Herro's 27 points off the bench.

Their opponents enter the matchup having lost narrowly to the Brooklyn Nets. Kuzma and James stood out among the LA Lakers starters, though will need to put on an even greater showing against the Miami Heat's stiffer defense

Let's take a look at what the key matchups will be on the night.

#3 Kendrick Nunn vs Wesley Matthews

Wesley Matthews rises for lay up against Minnesota
Wesley Matthews rises for lay up against Minnesota

Kendrick Nunn is one player for the Miami Heat whose numbers have fallen this season. Coach Spoelstra has tested several difference guard pairings already, though Nunn has started the last seven games and looks to have made the position his own given his consistent performances. Nunn is averaging 13.8 points and is shooting at an improved rate of 47.1% from the floor.

On the night, Nunn will match up in an intriguing battle with the LA Lakers replacement point guard Wesley Matthews, with regular starter Dennis Schroder sidelined. Schroder will be a huge miss for the Lakers, as shown on Thursday night against the Nets.

While LeBron will most likely do the majority of ball-handling for the LA Lakers, Wesley Matthews will have to do his fair share of defensive work against the Miami Heat guard. Matthews has been an elite defender in the past and was a part of the best defense in the league last year in Milwaukee.

Brought in as part of the LA Lakers expanding bench depth, Matthews has averaged 5 points though plays the role of facilitator, rather than shooter, when on the court - a role he has become accustomed to over the past few seasons.


#2 Bam Adebayo vs Marc Gasol

Miami Heat v Houston Rockets
Miami Heat v Houston Rockets

One of the Miami Heat's future stars is Bam Adebayo, who will be matched up against the LA Lakers veteran center Marc Gasol on Saturday. Adebayo has continued from where he left off in the bubble and has no issues considering the Heat's shortened offseason.

Adebayo has been a consistent starter for the Miami Heat amid their injury woes and is having a stellar season. The 23-year old is going to give Gasol and Montrezl Harrell a long, hard night in the paint, currently averaging 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. Added to his locker this postseason has been his ability to shoot free-throws. Therefore, the LA Lakers won't even be able to foul him without worrying about his 84.5% accuracy from the line.

Another of the Los Angeles franchises offseason trades was bringing in the veteran Gasol from Toronto. The big man is currently averaging 4.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for his new side and has shown moments of magic with his passing game.

Gasol brings more championship-winning experience to the LA Lakers locker room, though will need to be at the top of his game on Saturday to stop the MIami Heat player 13 years his junior.


#1 Jimmy Butler vs LeBron James

The matchup's two best players will provide the most eye-catching duel on the night. Jimmy Butler and LeBron James were unbelievable in last season's playoffs, both willing their sides through to the Finals and face off for the first time since the LA Lakers won in the bubble.

Ahead of facing the current MVP-favorite, Jimmy Butler's recent run of form has come at a timely moment. Butler had been on and off the court at the start of the season but has now put a run of 11 games together, with the Miami Heat coming out of this 6-5.

Butler is the focal point for the Miami Heat team on both ends of the floor, as can be shown by his 4 triple-doubles in 17 games and 1.9 steals per game. As too is LeBron James, who has been unbelievable in his 18th year. The LA Lakers veteran is averaging 25.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists as well as shooting at over 50% from the field.

In Davis' absence, James has upped his game to levels fans thought he couldn't reach with everything the LA Lakers do going through their 4-time MVP. James and Butler went back and forth in last year's finals so we can expect their battle to be just as tantalising as that in the bubble.

Published 20 Feb 2021, 02:40 IST
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