After months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seeding games, and three rounds of playoff games, the NBA finals are finally here. In a San Andreas versus Vice City type of way, we will get to see the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers battle for the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.
Both teams had different challenges with getting to the finals. Miami swept through the Indiana Pacers in the first round where they won the series 4-0. The Pacers had a player that was hot during the seeding games in TJ Warren. Warren averaged over 30 points per game before the playoffs. Forward Jimmy Butler and his team made the necessary adjustments to contain him and get the series sweep.
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The Lakers battled with a red-hot guard Damian Lillard and a red-hot Portland Trail Blazers team that had to win six of eight total seeding games and the play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Dealing with a team that was winning as much as the Blazers, the Lakers knew they would have a test in the first round but still managed to win the series in five after losing game one to the Blazers.
Fans expected the Heat to get sent home in the second round of the playoffs when they matched up with the reigning MVP of the league Giannis Antetokunmpo and the No. 1 ranked Milwaukee Bucks but they pulled off the unthinkable. The Heat did not only win the series in the first place but they sent the Bucks home in five games. The Bucks had no answer for the Heat’s balanced scoring load and Jimmy Butler and the MVP’s numbers could not get the Bucks enough wins to move on to the Conference Finals.
The Lakers on the other hand had to battle the dynamic duo down in Houston, Texas in guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Rockets made a statement in game one with the 112-97 win over the dynamic duo of forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That dynamic duo in LA contained both of the guards to win that series in five and move on to the Conference Finals.
Both conference matchups had tough matchups that had the Heat and Lakers playing opponents that were riding waves of momentum that could have turned into upsets for either team.
The Miami Heat had a Boston Celtics team that looked to be the favorites to come out the East after the Bucks got eliminated in the second round. The Heat had to contend with players such as guards Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. Who can forget the emerging star in forward Jayson Tatum? Being underdogs in the series fueled the Heat to come out on top in six games in very intense battles that came down to the final minutes.
The Lakers on the other hand dealt with a Denver Nuggets team that overcame back-to-back 3-1 deficits to win and advance to the conference finals including one against a Los Angeles Clippers team that people picked to advance so that the Battle of LA would take place. The Lakers went up 3-1 in that series, and fans were wondering if the Nuggets would pull off another series comeback. That did not happen however and now we are in the NBA finals.
As mentioned before, the Lakers have the dynamic duo of James and Davis that have proven to be too much on both sides of the ball to go along with role players that have been effective on both offense and defense.
They have proven to be a well-oiled machine that can not be stopped. Davis is averaging 28.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists to go along with one block and one steal in the playoffs. James on the other hand dominated to where he averaged a near triple-double with 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists to go with a block and a steal of his own. The duo has averaged 56 points by themselves and players like guards Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo, and forward Kyle Kuzma has found their rhythm on both sides of the ball. There’s a reason why the Lakers only lost three times in the playoffs and won four times as many games in the postseason to get to the Finals.
The Heat have had young players step up to the plate. Butler dominated on both sides of the ball, managed to hit huge shots in close games, and brought out the best in the rest of his teammates. Forward Bam Adebayo backed Butler up in a big way with his 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. Guards Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro dominated in each round as well to help balance out the scoring load by both adding another average of 36 points themselves.
Now for the narrative side of it all. All eyes are on James and Davis at the moment. James is playing in his tenth NBA finals, nine in the past 10 years. James is going against his former team where he won two championships in both 2012 and 2013. Davis is playing in his first NBA finals. Coming in, fans did not know if Davis would be able to stay healthy and he has up to this point while he looks to get his first championship after dealing with unsuccessful runs with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra knows how James plays and can make adjustments defensively to try and slow him down. Spoelstra can have Adebayo guard Davis and try to slow him down during the finals. Butler is playing in his first finals after dealing with drama in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minnesota. His first year in Miami can fuel a finals performance that can see his team raising the trophy in perhaps seven games or less.
Grab your popcorn or game-time snacks because this can prove to be one of the best finals in the past ten years perhaps all time depending on how the games go. Both teams have proven to be juggernauts that will not go down without a fight. Who will win the championship? I have the Lakers winning the series 4-2. Game one however will tip-off at 9:00 tonight.