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Lakers Clicking On All Cylinders; Can They Continue Against Heat On Thursday?

The Los Angeles Lakers have been on fire since the All-Star break, winning all eight games on their schedule, the latest triumph a 101-87 victory over the Hawks in Atlanta. While the game featured another strong defensive effort -- the Hawks shot 39.8% and the Lakers held their fifth straight opponent to 87 points or less -- the Lakers offense was clicking, too. Over on Silver Screen and Roll, Dexter Fishmore outlined the success of the Lakers when they held the ball:

Tonight's performance featured a resplendent offensive attack that cut the Hawks' defense to ribbons. All evening long, the Lakers played inside-out from the post, exploiting their height advantage over Atlanta's front line and ripping seams in the Hawks' interior D. Sharing the rock, making strong moves to the hole, stepping into jumpers... all that good stuff was on the plate, and it came together deliciously in the form of 1.20 points per possession. Kobe Bryant set the pace with 26 points, his game smooth and in the flow of the Triangle system. In the process he passed Moses Malone to reach sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

The Lakers will need to play well to end their week, as they end their road trip with trips to Miami and Dallas. Thursday's game with the Heat features quite a matchup: the Lakers have won eight straight, the Heat have lost five straight, and Miami dominated the Lakers 96-80 on Christmas Day. Whatever happens Thursday, on TNT, Fishmore is looking forward to it:

This Miami game will be a fascinating yardstick. In December, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade killed the Lakers with powerful drives to the hoop while Chris Bosh lit up Pau Gasol with his midrange game. As beatdowns go, it was pretty rough. The opportunity is there now for the Lakers to demonstrate how far they've come defensively. Just as they dispelled the Spurs' aura of invincibility, they can put to rest concerns about the matchup problems Miami seemed to expose in the teams' first meeting.

The Lakers have lost their only games with both Miami and Dallas this season. The Lakers play 11 of their last 17 games at Staples Center. For more news and information on today's game, be sure to read Silver Screen and Roll.