The NBA’s experiment with a bubble has finally reached its successful conclusion. The 2020 NBA Finals are set to tip off this Wednesday featuring the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a Finals that not many would have predicted before the shutdown. To be honest, it’s also a Finals that we weren’t sure would even happen . Yet here we are, almost 1 full year after the 2019/’20 NBA season started, the NBA will crown a champion. Join me as we take a closer look at this epic 2020 NBA Finals matchup.
Los Angeles Lakers
- 52-19, 1st seed in the West
- Round 1: 4-1 over the Portland Trailblazers
- Semi-Finals: 4-1 over the Houston Rockets
- Conference Finals: 4-1 over the Denver Nuggets
- 44-29, 5th seed in the East
- Round 1: 4-0 over the Indiana Pacers
- Semi-Finals: 4-1 over the Milwaukee Bucks
- Conference Finals: 4-2 over the Boston Celtics
- Game 1: November 8, 2019: Lakers won 95-80
- Game 2: December 13, 2019: Lakers won 113-110
- Overall: Lakers won series 2-0
Regular Season Takeaways
- With the break in the season the first matchup between these teams happened 10 months ago(!)
- Miami is a different team.
- Traded for Iquodala and Crowder mid-season.
- Tyler Herro has gotten better with more games under his belt
- The Lakers held Miami to a season low 80 points in their first matchup.
- LeBrow (Anthony Davis and Lebron James) dominated each game.
- AD: 29.5 ppg, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.
- Lebron: 26.5 ppg, 6.5 rebounds and 9 assists per game.
- Jimmy Butler got his points (22.5ppg) but the rest of his team suffered against LA.
- Miami has won the turnover battle both games.
The keys for the series between these two teams are so similar that we need to look at them simultaneously.
Keys for the Lakers
Shooting Against the Zone
- In my West Finals Preview, I picked the Lakers shooters as my Ex-Factor for the series. It didn’t end up mattering as the Lakers were able to get in the paint at will. However, that success will be limited against Miami in the 2020 NBA Finals. Miami is one of the best defensive teams in the league and they proved it by limiting league MVP Giannis Antetoukmpo as well as stifling a dangerous Celtics team. One of their hallmarks has been their zone defense. The Celtics showed us that a lack of shooting can sink you against Miami and the Los Angeles shooters (namely Green, KCP and Kuzma) will need to step up in order to take that weapon away from Miami.
Keys for the Heat
- When the Heat look at defending the Lakers, I don’t think a single person in that film room will be scared. Miami is ready for this moment and they have the tools to do it. Miami switches from a couple different zone schemes but one of their most effective formations is with the wings up high challenging the opposing guards and Bam Adebayo directing traffic in the middle and down low. When Miami made the trade for Crowder and Iguodala, this zone got nasty. When the Laker guards cross half-court, they will have to deal with a combination of those two veterans and/or Jimmy Butler hounding them and forcing them from their preferred areas. If the Heat can turn the Lakers into a jump shooting team with this scheme, it could swing the series.
“Pissed off” Lebron James
- Lebron was fairly candid about finishing second for MVP this year and Denver felt the full brunt of that anger. In these playoffs, Lebron has averaged 26.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 9.3 apg…in year 17. He’s been brilliant all year and his play seems to be peaking at the perfect moment. Most recently he dropped 38 points, 10 assists and 16 rebounds to close out the Nuggets. Aside from the stats though, Lebron just seems hungry. The “eye test” tells us that he’s motivated to win this title and Miami is going to be hard pressed to stop him from doing so.
The Brow vs. Bam
Jimmy Butler vs. Lebron
- Much has been made of Butler’s success against Lebron James going into this series. As it stands, their head to head matchup is at an even 17-17. Butler has the defensive chops to stay in front of Lebron and enough strength to prevent him from plowing right through him. Butler is smart enough to prevent his fouls from piling up and even in the Heat’s zone, he will likely be the first line of defense against “Point Lebron.” Nobody expects Jimmy Butler to stop Lebron in his tracks. Yet if he can make life difficult for him, the Heat’s chances of winning go way up.
Bam vs. The Brow
- For Anthony Davis, this is the biggest moment of his career. He proved in the Conference Finals that he’s ready to accept it but he needs to follow through with a Finals performance to match his brilliant postseason. Staring across from him will be his fellow Kentucky brethren Bam Adebayo. Adebayo presents a unique challenge to Davis in that Bam has the speed to stay with AD, the length to disrupt his shot and the strength to muscle him off the block. Yet despite all those skills, AD has torched Bam in their two games this season. 29.5 ppg and 9 rpg are what we will expect from Davis but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Davis raise his game even higher.
- Bam Adebayo has been fantastic in these playoffs. His numbers won’t jump out at you with 18.5ppg, 11.4 rpg and 4.9apg but he’s the most important piece of this Heat team. In Anthony Davis, Bam is facing a physical match the likes of which he has yet to face in these playoffs. This is a tall order for the 3rd year center but Bam has the skills to make life very difficult for Davis. Defensively, Bam is one of the best big men in the game with the speed, strength and length to disrupt Davis. Offensively, Bam will constantly be putting pressure on Davis to guard him straight up. Adebayo can drive to the rim and pass like a guard. If you fail to box him out, he will make you pay. Bam has raised his game every year and he’s continued to do so in these playoffs.
Lakers Ex-Factor: “Playoff” Rondo
As stated above, if the Heat’s zone proves to be effective, the Lakers will need a player who can make plays and force the issue. In these playoffs, Rajon Rondo has proven to be that guy. At 9 points and 7 assists a game, Rondo’s numbers don’t wow you but he is a steady veteran presence with a championship pedigree. As a Celtics fan, I can attest that Playoff Rondo is a real thing. He’s even shooting an absurd 44% from 3 on 4 attempts per game. Even if the hot shooting doesn’t continue though, Rondo is the Ex-Factor for the Lakers with everything else he does. The Lakers role players seem to trade off with their scoring bursts but you always know what you are going to get from Rondo. He’s a steady hand, an astonishing passer and above all, a champion.
Heat Ex-Factor: Tyler Herro
In two games against the Lakers this year, Tyler Herro scored 14 points…combined. So why is he my Ex-Factor? This is Tyler Herro now. Herro is 20 years old and he’s already broken one of Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat records with his 37 point explosion against the Celtics. He’s the wildcard of this series. He’s won Miami a couple playoff games during this run and who’s to say he won’t do the same against the Lakers? The kid shows an extraordinary amount of confidence for someone his age so we can assume he won’t fear the moment. With big brother Jimmy Butler backing him up, it feels like anything is possible with Tyler Herro in this series. Including helping his team win the 2020 NBA Finals.
Series Prediction: Lakers in 6
This will be an extraordinary series but I think the Heat’s run ends here. The Lakers just have too much going for them. They’ve been dominant for the entirety of the playoffs and they have Lebron James (aka #washedking) on a mission. Anthony Davis is playing with a chip on his shoulder along with the rest of the 2010 Eastern Conference all-star castoffs that litter this roster. The Lakers are a team full of pride and they seem to be a team of destiny. All throughout the playoffs they have lived by the mantra “leave a legacy” in honor of Kobe Bryant and it seems they will fulfill that promise. As much as it pains me to say (as a Celtics fan) the Los Angeles Lakers will win the 2020 NBA Finals.
Written by Sean Curley