LeBron James, center, is averaging 26.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers (24-27) visit the surging Miami Heat (33-14) on Sunday afternoon.
LeBron James has been on a serious tear recently. The last three games he has shot an incredible 33 of 43 from the field (76.7%). The Heat have won four straight.
Both Chris Bosh and Ray Allen sat out Friday against the Clippers because of flu. Their status against the Lakers isn't clear.
If the Lakers, who are missing big men Pau Gasol (foot) and Jordan Hill (hip), can benefit from a couple of missing players on the Heat, so be it. Then again, the short-handed Heat destroyed the Clippers by 22 points.
Miami defeated the Lakers, 99-90, on Jan. 17 in what was a close game despite 20 turnovers and 10 missed free throws by the Lakers.
James had 39 points while Dwyane Wade chipped in 27. The Lakers got 22 points from Kobe Bryant -- but he shot eight of 25 from the field.
The Lakers have to find a way to slow down James. His efficiency has been off the charts this season, shooting 56% from the field along with a steady 42% from three-point range.
Metta World Peace has slumped significantly of late, struggling in particular to hit shots. The Lakers need a big game from their veteran forward, both defensively on James and from the outside as a floor-spacer.
Earl Clark will probably get some time on James as well -- along with Bryant in stretches.
The Lakers almost survived the first meeting with the Heat despite huge nights from James and Wade. The key was holding all their teammates to less than 10 points each.
The problem down the stretch was the lineup with Ray Allen alongside Wade and James, which gave Steve Nash nowhere to hide defensively.
Miami used Shane Battier to guard Pau Gasol. Without Gasol, Battier (one of the league's better perimeter defenders) will get more time on Bryant.
The Lakers have won four of six on their Grammy trip. Finishing 5-2 would be impressive with a win in Miami ... but shouldn't be expected.
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