Dwight Howard Will Exploit Miami Heat's Obvious Size Problem

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to his goaltending during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Staples Center on January 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Miami Heat are struggling.

With just two wins in their last six games, the sudden vulnerability of the reigning champions has bled through the NBA's shark-infested waters.

And the Los Angeles Lakers look poised to feast on the source of that wound.

When the Heat travel to Staples Center for Thursday night's inter-conference battle featuring the two heaviest favorites of the preseason, they'll do so without obvious solutions to the myriad problems presented by Lakers big man Dwight Howard.

The 6'11", 235-pound Howard will ride roughshod through Miami's feathery soft interior.

With 26.5 points and 15 rebounds in his past two contests, he looks healthier than he has all season. And the chance to dominate the defending champs in front of a national audience may prove the perfect elixir to any of his lingering ailments.

It's a true David vs. Goliath scenario.

Howard's size and strength will prove an imposing prospect for the finesse-oriented Chris Bosh or the undersized (6'9") Joel Anthony. 

Miami's lack of size in the post, a byproduct of the position-less approach undertaken by head coach Erik Spoelstra, has left the club vulnerable around the basket.

The Heat have corralled a league-worst 38.6 rebounds per game. They have posted the NBA's sixth-worst rebounding differential at minus-3.2.

Howard, meanwhile, has torched opposing frontcourts, despite never looking fully recovered after undergoing back surgery in April 2012. His 12.6 rebounds per game is his lowest average since the 2006-07 season, but it's still good enough for a third-place standing among the league leaders.

His recent uptick in production has come by way of a growing familiarity with coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive schemes, along with a renewed focus to demand touches. His 14.5 field-goal attempts over his last two contests represent an increase of nearly four shots per game from his season average of 10.9.

Miami hasn't yet hit the panic button, and they shouldn't. Their 24-12 mark has afforded them sole possession of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

But this team has shown an inability to make winning plays in the paint, providing L.A. with an obvious path to a potentially season-saving effort (and a three-game winning streak to boot).

To answer the age-old question, yes, size does matter.

It's a stark reality that Heat fans know all too well.