Kobe Bryant (left) and LeBron James faced off last year on Christmas Day. This time James is bringing some new friends. Photo by Jeff Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
After five months of hype, the NBA’s two super teams will square off. The match up of the dominant force from the East against the dominant force from the West. The match up of good vs. evil. The battle of finesse vs. grit. The battle of historic magnitude.
Oh wait, the Lakers and Celtics are not playing. It’s just the Heat.
Well what ever this novelty match up is supposed to be, the Lakers vs. Heat super match up is finally upon us.
When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh formed what appeared to be a super team in Miami, with the goal of winning the NBA championship, the thought of a Lakers and Heat NBA Finals match up crossed every basketball fan’s mind.
Our first glimpse of this battle of the titans will happen on Christmas Day, when the Heat travels to Los Angeles.
This contest only counts for one game, but both teams will be looking to send a message, and it is probably more important for the Heat to prove that they are true title contenders.
The Lakers have won back-to-back titles, and last year they did it by knocking off the archrival Boston Celtics in Game 7. Historically the Lakers have lost that match up. The Heat may be the hot new thing, but at this point they are nothing that the Lakers have not already seen.
Seeing that the Celtics have already carved up the Heat twice, the Lakers have to be feeling pretty good about this game. For the Lakers this could be a game where they can show that simply rolling out three All-Stars is not enough to beat their incredibly deep team.
After an embarrassing 9-8 start, the Heat rolled off a 12 game winning streak before being recently stopped by the Dallas Mavericks. All seemed right in Miami, but they really got fat on a lot of bottom feeder teams. Outside of wins against the New Orleans Hornets and the Utah Jazz, they really did not beat anybody of note. Forget about their win against the New York Knicks. The Knicks have been so bad for so long that any signs of life gets New Yorkers thinking that they are on their way to the title. The Heat whacked out a middle of the road team in New York.
Since the Celtics used the Heat as their whipping boys, the Lakers surely do not want to be out done by their real rivals. A Christmas Day thumping would send a message to James, Wade, and Bosh that they are not going to be able to start their title run until after the Lakers and Celtics end theirs.
The Lakers are getting right just in time for this showdown at Staples Center. The return of Andrew Bynum means that Pau Gasol can play fewer minutes, and a more rested Gasol means that Kobe Bryant does not feel like he needs to pick up even more of the slack.
The thought is that the Lakers are too deep for the Heat’s Big 3. The Lakers are also too long in the frontcourt. Those theories will finally be put to the test. If the Lakers do the Heat like the Celtics did, then nobody will consider the Heat a true title contender this year. But if the Heat can steal a win, they’ll be able to show that their early season struggles were just growing pains along their way to greatness.
Either way it goes, some message will be sent, which could have a lasting effect on the season, or maybe not. Remember, last Christmas Day the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James ran the Lakers off the court. The Cavs went on to flame out in the playoffs while the Lakers won the title.
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