The writing seems to already be on the wall. The Lakers have marched through the playoffs winning each series in five games up to this point. Superstar LeBron James seems to making a point to the rest of the league that he should’ve won this year’s MVP as he’s averaging a near triple-double (26-10-9) in the 2020 playoffs. Team LeBron up with another consensus top five player in the world in Anthony Davis and there’s no way they can lose, right? Wrong.
The Miami Heat have been the league’s biggest surprise in the bubble. As a five seed, they stomped through the Eastern Conference making their first Finals appearance since LeBron was a member of their team. Although the Lakers are massive favorites at -375 to win this series, the Heat are very capable of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Here are three reasons why:
The Clippers were supposed to be the perfect team to stop the Lakers, but who’s kidding who? LeBron and Anthony Davis were always going to produce, it’s always been up to the Lakers’ role players to play a part in their success.
The Heat may not have been constructed to beat the Lakers but on paper, they look pretty solid. The Heat have three effective wing defenders who they can throw at to try to contain LeBron: Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Jimmy Butler. Will that combination stop LeBron from his near triple-double average? Absolutely not, but the goal is to try to slow LeBron down and make him earn every single bucket. This will be a long series and fatigue will play a role.
Crowder, a former teammate of LeBron’s in Cleveland, has the build to wear LeBron down to a degree while Iguodala has plenty of experience defending LBJ with the Warriors in their numerous meetings in the finals.
Moreover, the Heat have a solid matchup for Anthony Davis in breakout star Bam Adebayo. Adebayo was a Second Team All-Defensive selection and has a combination of length and athleticism that will be AD’s toughest matchup in the playoffs.
LeBron and AD have the pressure of having to score 25-30+ night in, night out in order for the Lakers to have a chance to win. Although that isn’t necessarily a weakness because it forces their superstars to have a greater sense of urgency, the Heat play a completely different brand of basketball.
The Heat have a 7-man rotation that can go as deep as 9 guys if you include the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones/Solomon Hill. They have six guys who are averaging double figures in points per game in the playoffs while five of them are capable of scoring 20+ any given night.
They have their all-star in Jimmy Butler but we’ve seen the likes of Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, and most notably rookie sensation, Tyler Herro catch fire at any time.
The Lakers will be demanding a lot from role players like Alex Caruso, Danny Green, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to try to contain these players but the Lakers cannot cheat on the defensive side of the basketball. The Heat will always have at least four, usually five guys on the court that can make a huge impact offensively.
Since LeBron’s departure from Miami, head coach Erik Spoelstra has quietly built a reputation as one of the most respected coaches in the NBA. He has instilled a culture and a brand of basketball that is structured and team-oriented. He has shown the ability to maximize his individual players and team’s potential.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel has proven to be a nice fit with LA as a motivator. However, unlike Spoelstra, he has no finals experience and is not near the tactician he is. Spoelstra has gone out and danced around the likes of Mike Budenholzer and Brad Stevens this postseason. Vogel does not present the same challenge strategically as these guys.
Spoelstra has shown an ability to overcome halftime and late-game deficits with beautiful in-game adjustments. For example, Spoelstra disoriented the Bucks and Celtics highly efficient offenses with their spurts of zone defense. Spoelstra coaches to his team’s strengths which is versatility on defense and an ability to space and create consistent mismatches on offense.
Furthermore, Spoelstra has the advantage of having coached LeBron in the past. He has a much better understanding of LeBron’s tendencies than anyone and may have a few other ideas of how to further slow down the three-time champion.
/ 12 hours ago
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