Tonight Kobe Bryant welcomes the Miami Heat to the Staples Center in a huge matchup against his Lakers. Miami is coming off a loss to the Utah Jazz and L.A. has been playing well after the break, but the main focuses of tonight’s game are probably going to be Kobe vs. D-Wade (after the whole All-Star incident) and Kobe vs. LeBron.
All-Star weekend really heightened the intensity for this matchup. Kobe will be playing with a mask tonight due to the injury caused by Wade in the All-Star game, but it hasn’t held him back. They claim there is no bad blood, but when Miami comes into town, all emotions go up. As for LeBron, this is probably the worst possible timing for him to meet up with Kobe. After Kobe called him out for passing in the All-Star game, LeBron did it again Friday night against Utah, drawing criticism from everyone in the NBA. Kobe really irritates people, but we will see how LeBron and Dwyane react to him.
As for the Heat, Chris Bosh will be back and the Heat will have everyone available. It’s good that Shane Battier got some more time in Bosh’s absence because now he will continue his hot streak coming off the bench. Although he’s been playing great, don’t expect Udonis Haslem to take any game-winning jumpers. He will have to bang the boards hard against the Lakers two 7-footers.
The Lakers have been playing pretty well after the All Star break. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been Kobe doing everything. Amidst all the trade rumors, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have been playing consistently, and their size could be a problem for Miami. Also, Steve Blake has been a very good point guard coming off the bench. The Lakers do not have the depth the Heat have, but they’re still very solid.
Today is going to be intense and Miami will have to match the intensity of the home crowd to bounce back from Friday night’s loss. It’ll be interesting to see Kobe and Wade against each other and how LeBron James comes back from all the scrutiny. Check back here after the game for some post-game analysis.