Struggling Miami Heat prepares for surging Lakers (VIDEO)

Lakers coach Phil Jackson played nice on Wednesday.

Standing amid a few dozen reporters on Miami’s home court, Jackson compared the struggling Heat to the 1968 Los Angeles Lakers. That team featured Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, Jackson explained, and it took them four years to win an NBA championship.
“Three of the greatest scorers that ever played the game,” Jackson said. “I don’t expect this Miami team to take that long.”
A few days ago, Jackson wasn’t so kind.
After being asked about the Heat’s emotional locker room following Sunday’s loss to the Bulls, Jackson said, “This is the NBA: No Boys Allowed. Big boys don’t cry. But if you’re going to do it, do it in the toilet where no one can see.”
Jackson has needled the Heat with wry comments throughout the season. Now he’s in Miami and the stage is set for one of Miami’s most important home games of the regular season.
The Heat plays the Lakers at 7 p.m. Thursday. While the Heat (43-21) has lost a season-high five games in row, the Lakers (46-19) have won eight in a row since the All-Star break.
“We can’t run away from challenges,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “This is the biggest challenge at this point, playing against the defending champions when they feel like they’re hit their mark.
“They’re playing great basketball. We’re not playing great basketball. What better game than to come in and focus and try to get the ship right, playing against the best team in the NBA in the Los Angeles Lakers.”
The Heat defeated the Lakers soundly on Christmas Day.

At the time, Los Angeles was the high-profile team struggling through a difficult stretch. The roles are reversed for Thursday’s game. The Heat has lost six of its past seven games, including four consecutive losses at home.
Guard Kobe Bryant said his team’s early season struggles simply helped the Lakers identify their problems. The five-time NBA champion said it might not be so simple for the Heat, though.
“I think the difference for us is we all know what our roles are,” Bryant said. “Our roles are cemented for us and for them, they’re still trying to figure that out. It makes it a little tougher.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Wednesday that the experience of the Heat’s current skid will ultimately help the team. The pressure teams feel in the playoffs is similar to what the Heat is going through, Spoelstra explained.
“This is real,” Spoelstra said. “The weight of the games feel like the playoffs. You can say all that you want, positive or negative — that’s a good thing to have that type of experience right now.”
Spoelstra held a physical practice Wednesday in the hopes of kick-starting his struggling team.
“[Wednesday] was not about talk; it was not about film; it was not about review,” Spoelstra said. “Less talk, more action, and we’ve just got to work it.”
Forward Chris Bosh did plenty of talking Tuesday after the Heat’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. On Wednesday, he was one of the last players to walk off the Heat’s practice court. Bosh scored seven points on 3-of-11 shooting on Tuesday and afterward said he needed to be more assertive on the court and demand the ball more frequently under the basket.
That could be a challenge against Los Angeles considering the Lakers’ frontcourt rotation of Paul Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom.
“I don’t care how many — they could have 100,000,000 bigs,” Bosh said. “I feel that I work hard enough. I feel that I’m one of the best forwards in the league, and I have to play like it. Yeah, they’re very talented and they’re very deep, but that doesn’t bother me one bit.”

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