After months of sacrifice and dedication to making the NBA bubble feasible, we are now just one series away from declaring a new NBA champion. The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat will face off in a battle for the elusive title. The NBA Finals show the world who has the heart of a champion, who can perform on the world’s biggest stage when it matters most, and who melts under the pressure.
Despite playing without fans in a completely different atmosphere, the stakes are still higher than ever. While both teams are incredibly grateful for their team’s success in winning their conferences, neither are satisfied, they want to reach the top of the mountain. As the late great Kobe Bryant once said, “job’s not finished.”
An astonishing aspect of this Finals is that for the first time ever, the Finals matchup includes two lottery teams from the year prior. Both the Heat and Lakers were the 10 seeds in the East and West (respectively) last season.
The addition of Anthony Davis, as well as a handful of veteran presences and a healthy LeBron James have brought the Lakers back to the NBA Finals, their first since 2010 when Kobe Bryant led the purple and gold to their 16th title in franchise history. On their path to the Finals, the Lakers have defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets.
For the Miami Heat, the addition of two-way star Jimmy Butler, as well as the breakout young players on their roster have solidified the Heat as a title contender. This is their first finals appearance since 2014, when LeBron James (now their finals foe) led them to a finals date with Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
The most impressive aspect of this Heat team is that they finished the regular season as the five seed in the East. They are the first five seed to make the NBA Finals since the current playoff format was implemented in the 1983-84 season. On their path to the Finals, the Heat have defeated the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics.
Both teams have not only made it all the way to the finals but have done it in imposing fashion. Both the Lakers and Heat have only lost three games in their first three playoff series matchups. These teams have inflicted fear into the minds of their opponents within their conferences, now they must fight one last battle before claiming the glory that comes with winning an NBA championship.
These are two big market teams that are accustomed to playoff success and both fully expect to win it all. Heading into the highly anticipated series, both teams have tremendous admiration for one another, but neither see themselves as the underdog. For one team will come an offseason of celebration and glory, for the other, a regroup and front office examination of how they can get over the hump in the future.
Keys to Victory: Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were widely chosen to win it all this season. Led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the best duo in the game, consistent playoff performances have secured their spot as the champions of the West. However, some were skeptical of their chances due to their lack of depth and unclear third scoring option. To fulfill their expectations, the Lakers will need consistent production from players other than their two stars.
Through three series and 15 playoff games so far, LeBron is averaging a near triple double with splits of 26.7 points per game, 10.3 rebounds per game, and 8.9 assists per game on 54.7 percent shooting from the field. Davis is averaging 28.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. Both have had their way on offense and have gotten whatever they’ve wanted to this point.
The main point of emphasis for the Lakers will be whether they receive consistent production from their supporting cast.
The success of players such as Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, and Markieff Morris will be the X-factor for the Lakers and will determine whether their ship floats or sinks during this series. If the supporting cast of LA can hold their own and provide a fire punch to the Lakers’ stars, Miami may struggle to find answers.
Keys to Victory: Heat
The Miami Heat are arguably the biggest surprise of the NBA postseason. They display a collaborative team style of basketball with no true alpha leading the way. The Heat are stacked with players who can shoot, defend, and create their own shot. The Heat have shown throughout the playoffs that they are as dangerous as anyone in the league. This team gets a lot of good looks from behind the arc and when they are hitting those shots with consistency, they are incredibly difficult to contain.
The main point of emphasis for the Heat will be their ability to limit the production of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
This Heat team is built differently than any team the Lakers have faced so far in the sense that they have an array of defensive weapons that they can switch onto LeBron and Davis. Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, and Jae Crowder are all capable of defending LeBron on the perimeter, as well as Bam Adebayo should he be switched onto James. Adebayo will mainly be responsible for guarding Davis, a tough task for the 23-year old out of Kentucky. Knocking down threes on one end and locking down the stars on the other end will be the key for Miami to securing the title.