LOS ANGELES – The Miami Heat didn’t know what hit them.
Less than 90 seconds into the second quarter a three-point lead was a five-point deficit.
And it grew from there.
The Los Angeles Lakers were like a runaway freight train, pushing their lead to eight, 12, 14 and settling for an 11-point halftime advantage after posting a 40-point quarter and a stunning 73 at the half.
In the end, Miami’s 131-113 loss at home two weeks ago marked the most points the Heat allowed in regulation in 10 years.
“It was a horror show watching it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said about reviewing the game film.
Spoelstra and the Heat hope to avoid a sequel of The Night of the Living Lakers when the two teams meet again Friday at the Staples Center.
“We know that the Lakers are playing well at home,” Goran Dragic said. “They’re playing at a high pace. It’s kind of our kryptonite. We’re going to have to be focused on transition defense. It’s going to be a challenge.”
The Lakers (31-47) lead the NBA in pace with 103.24 possessions per 48 minutes. In Miami they shot just under 60 percent for the game and had 22 fast break points at halftime. The Heat had no chance against L.A.’s up-tempo game, with layup after layup leading to 48 points in the paint, 38 in the first half.
Now, the Heat (36-33) face the Lakers reeling after dropping the first two games of this trip and nine straight on the road. The latest an inexcusable 123-119 overtime loss at Sacramento, which entered with the fifth-worst record in the league.
“There is no doubt in my mind we’re going to come to play,” James Johnson said. “It’s the character in this locker room, it’s what we built.
“We really got to be resilient and this is the time. It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy from the coaches, from any of the players.”
While the No. 8 Heat continue to remain comfortably in the playoff picture 5.5 games ahead of the Pistons entering Thursday’s games, each loss to an inferior opponent is a blown opportunity to move up the standings.
Miami was just a half-game behind No. 7 Milwaukee and 1.5 games behind No. 6 Philadelphia entering Thursday.
“It’s a huge game,” Tyler Johnson said. “It’s definitely one of those you feel you got to give just maybe a little bit more to try to pull that one out.
“I think going 0-3 on this road trip would not sit very well with any of us.”
The Heat are 4-7 against the top five teams in the league in pace with a team that is a mixture of veterans and young legs. The team’s core has several players in their 20s – Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Bam Adebayo; but it also has a few 30-somethings like James Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade.
And the Heat could be facing the Lakers without Wade (hamstring), Whiteside (hip) and Richardson (foot), all of whom missed the Sacramento game.
So why are Heat so bothered by young, athletic teams that push the pace?
“I think sometimes we lose our connectiveness as far as communication,” Winslow said. “That’s all it is. We’re in the right spots a lot of times or we are back on defense, but we don’t have that communication we need to find our man and matchup. A lot of times we’re giving the effort. It’s just a lack of focus, lack of communication. We’ve just got to make sure we fix it.”
Tyler Johnson also referenced breakdowns in communications, which should not be an issue 69 games into the season.
“Our transition defense was horrible,” Tyler said about the first meeting with the Lakers. “That is first and foremost, getting back, get loaded.
“Our problem is when we are back communicating who has who. It sounds like it just is very simple but for whatever reason we struggled with it the last couple of games.”