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NBA Preview from The Sports Network

Monday, December 25th (All times eastern)

Los Angeles Lakers (18-9) at Miami Heat (12-14), 2:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Lakers and the defending world champion Miami Heat hook up for the third straight year on Christmas Day, as the teams battle in the only NBA contest of the day at AmericanAirlines Arena.

On Christmas Day in 2004, Dwyane Wade scored four points in overtime to help lift the Heat past Los Angeles, 104-102, at the Staples Center, while Shaquille O'Neal registered 18 points and 17 rebounds to lead Miami to a 97-92 victory over the Lakers on Christmas Day in 2005 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Shaq, who was acquired in a blockbuster deal from the Lakers on July 14, 2004, will not participate in today's game as the All-Star center is sidelined after having surgery on his left knee in November. O'Neal is averaging 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. He last played on November 12th against the Houston Rockets.

O'Neal and superstar Kobe Bryant won three championships together with the Lakers. The 34-year-old O'Neal spent eight seasons with fellow All-Star Bryant and the Lakers,

The Lakers play the fourth of a six-game road trip. They are 2-1 on the swing. Bryant was suffering from a chest cold, but still had 21 points and a season- high 11 assists to lead the Lakers to a 99-95 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Friday at Continental Airlines Arena.

Smush Parker scored 13 points in the win over New Jersey for the Lakers, while Maurice Evans ended with 12 points for LA, which has won two in a row and six of its last nine games overall.

LA is 5-5 on the road this season. The Lakers are scheduled to visit the Orlando Magic on Wednesday and the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday in the finale of the current trip.

The Heat conclude a brief two-game homestand. On Saturday, Jason Kapono came up huge off the bench for Miami, scoring a career-high 27 points to lead the Heat to a 105-92 dismantling of the Golden State Warriors.

Wade netted 18 and dished out eight assists in the win over the Warriors for Miami, while veteran center Alonzo Mourning had 14 points and six rebounds for the Heat, who have won three of their last four games overall. Udonis Haslem had 13 points and 10 boards, and Jason Williams finished with 10 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Miami.

Miami is 5-7 at home this season. The Heat will visit Ben Gordon and the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday at the United Center.

This is the first of two meetings between the clubs this season. The Lakers are scheduled to host the Heat on January 15, 2007 at the Staples Center.

These teams have split the last six contests in this series. The Lakers have lost two straight and three of their last four at Miami.

The Lakers are in second place in the Pacific Division and trail the Phoenix Suns by one game, while the Heat are 3 1/2 games behind division-leading Orlando in the Southeast.

12/25 10:40:39 ET

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