It's only been a week since Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade squared up in what turned out to be a pretty physical game.
This time, the game actually matters.
The Lakers host the Miami Heat Sunday at Staples Center, and there's certainly plenty of storylines involving the game.
But the main one involves Bryant and Wade.
Bryant has worn a plastic mask for the past week after Wade's hard foul in the 2011 All-Star game gave him a concussion, broken nose and whiplash on his neck. But that's hardly stopped him. He's averaged 34.5 points on 51% shooting while wearing a protective mask in victories over Minnesota and Sacramento. Lakers Coach Mike Brown said "I imagine he will" wear the mask again the Heat.
There's other storylines too.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum vowed he and teammates won't retaliate against Wade. But Lakers reserve Matt Barnes indicated earlier in the week that might happen. The Heat hopes it has enough depth from Wade and LeBron James to absorb the absence of All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who will miss his third consecutive game after his grandmother's passing. Brown doesn't believe in statement games, but he acknowledged this contest will give him a better idea where the Lakers stand in their offensive execution and pick-and-roll defense. And then of course, there's James, who's still reeling criticism for passing up the final shot in the Heat's loss Friday to Utah.
Here's another nugget that will inflame all the attention surrounding him. Heat forward Juwan Howard interrupted Brown's pregame interview with reporters to say hello and ask him about his family. James did not.
Chat about those topics and more below the jump.