The Los Angeles Lakers, who have the longest active win streak in the Western Conference at six games, play host to the Miami Heat on Friday night.
And they’ll get the Heat on the second night of a road back-to-back as Miami won 124-108 at Phoenix on Thursday night.
The Lakers, who have been off since Tuesday, are 3-0 at home this season. Lakers star LeBron James, who led Miami to two NBA titles in 2012 & ’13, has produced three straight triple-doubles.
James is the first Lakers player to post three straight triple-doubles since Magic Johnson in 1987.
“A triple-double means absolutely nothing to me if it doesn’t come in a win,” James told reporters. “It’s about team success.”
The Lakers haven’t lost since their season opener on Oct. 23 against Los Angeles Clippers — a game in which the Lakers were the road team despite playing in Staples Center — and James on that night said: “We have a lot of room to improve.”
Most of that improvement has come in the coordination between the Lakers’ two superstars: James and Anthony Davis, acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans in a trade that was completed on July 6.
James is averaging 26.1 points, a team-high 11.1 assists and 8.3 rebounds. Davis leads the Lakers in points (26.6), rebounds (10.9) and blocks (3.0).
Meanwhile, Miami is off to a promising start at 6-2. And no game better illustrates the Heat’s early success than Sunday night, when Miami thrashed the Houston Rockets 129-100.
“Surprising? Not surprising to me,” Heat forward Meyers Leonard said after that Rockets game of the Heat’s play thus far.
In Thursday’s win over Phoenix, forward Jimmy Butler — Miami’s biggest offseason acquisition — went off for 34 points. His 30 first-half points came on 9-for-10 shooting from the floor, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers. Butler also made 10-of-10 on free throws to complete the highest-scoring first half of his stellar career.
The Heat got some other good performances on Thursday, including 15 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five steals from center Bam Adebayo.
Miami’s bench was led by former Suns guard Goran Dragic, who poured in 25 points, hitting 5 of 7 3-pointers and adding six rebounds and four assists. He scored 20 of his 25 in the second half. And Heat rookie guard and first-round pick Tyler Herro added 15 points, going 3-for-4 on 3-pointers.
Overall, the Heat shot 54.9 percent from the floor, including 15 of 28 on 3-pointers (53.6 percent).
Even so, the Heat are playing a bit short-handed as starting forward Justise Winslow sat out Thursday’s game while in the concussion protocol following a collision with Denver forward Paul Millsap on Tuesday. It was Winslow’s first game after missing the previous two with lower-back stiffness.
In addition, Heat backup forward Derrick Jones, who missed the previous four games with a groin injury, left Thursday’s game with a hip strain.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are getting healthier.
Wing Kyle Kuzma, who averaged 18.7 points last season, has played the last three games after missed the first four of this season because of an injured right ankle.
In his most recent game Tuesday, Kuzma scored a season-high 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting in a win over the Chicago Bulls, though he made only 1 of 8 3-point shots.
“I’m getting there,” Kuzma told reporters of his performance. “It’s a process. It’s about being patient. I haven’t played much basketball since August.”
Lakers guard Avery Bradley, who missed the Bulls game due to a contusion on his right leg, may be ready for Miami. He is averaging 10.7 points and 1.3 steals.
–Field Level Media