Heat vs. Lakers preview: LA tries for a winning streak

Harry How

A win over Miami would help LA get their season back on track.

Don't call it a comeback, at least not yet.

The Lakers have looked better in their last two games than they have nearly all season, but both their wins came against middle of the pack Eastern Conference teams. On Thursday, they'll get their chance against the Miami Heat.

Dwight Howard, who has averaged 25 points and 15 rebounds since coming back from a shoulder injury, has been the biggest difference, and he could have another big game against a small Miami front-line.

Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, seems to have responded to Mike D'Antoni's decision to give him more defensive responsibility, and he will likely get the assignment on Dwyane Wade early.

For the Heat, a win against LA would be a chance to move their record on a tough six-game road trip back to .500. They won handily in Golden State last night, with LeBron James reaching the milestones of 20,000 career points and 5,000 career assists.

Pau Gasol, who has been out for over a week with a concussion, is expected to be back in action for the Lakers. D'Antoni has struggled to get the former All-Star accustomed to his offensive system, so establishing the 7'0 on the block could be a priority, especially if the Heat try to play small.

When the season started, many circled this game as a potential NBA Finals preview. Three months later, the stakes for LA are much higher, as they need every win they can get just to move themselves back into the playoff picture.

The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT at 10:30 p.m. ET.

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