NBA

Numerous Elements Set to Unfold in Potential NBA Finals Classic

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The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat arrive at the 2020 NBA Finals just a year after they both missed the playoffs altogether.

 

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Notables Heading Into Game 1

  • Both teams are 12-3 this postseason
  • LAL has yet to see a series extended to six games
  • MIA has yet to trail in a 2020 postseason series
  • LAL seeking 17th title, MIA seeking 4th

Our Heat and Lakers analysts came together to discuss what all commences tonight.

Josh Katz: Heat Win Series 4-3, Finals MVP: Goran Dragic

The most interesting subject when it comes to the Heat-Lakers NBA Finals matchup? Which player will be guarding Lakers star LeBron James? LeBron is arguably the greatest NBA player to enter the league post-Michael Jordan, and some fans would even go as far to say that he’s the greatest player to ever dribble a basketball. But who will Miami throw at James when it comes to defending him? The answer: Jae Crowder.

Crowder has been one of the Heat’s premier defenders since the NBA Playoffs began.

Can Crowder Thrive With The Most Difficult Task Possible?

Dating back to the Heat-Bucks Eastern Conference Semifinal round, Crowder was slotted to defend Bucks star and two-time NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. To sum up Crowder’s defense on Giannis, you could say that he was making the reigning MVP embarrass himself at times. With Crowder’s exceptional defense, he assisted in holding Greek Freak to 20.1 PPG, an average of 9.4 PPG lower than his season average. The Marquette alum noticeably slowed Giannis down and played a huge role offensively as well in Miami’s 4-1 series win over the Bucks.

Unlike Antetokounmpo, however, LeBron is more than just a two-time MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. He is a four-time MVP, 16-time All-Star, scoring champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, and three-time NBA Champion (twice with the Miami Heat). It is easy to say that James is a force to be reckoned with.

Despite his impressive résumé, improved shooting ability, and incredible dunk-package, Crowder will be The Chosen One to stop King James and dethrone the Lakers as the NBA’s best team. Statistically, Crowder has been the third-best defender while guarding James since 2013-14, holding him to 42.2% shooting only trailing behind teammate Jimmy Butler (41.2%) and Draymond Green (39.3%).

With Crowder locked in on defense, James may have a more difficult go than expected in this Finals matchup.

Connor McCool: Heat Win Series 4-3, Finals MVP: Jimmy Butler

The most difficult task for the Heat will not be guarding LeBron, but instead will be dealing with the Lakers’ big men. The Lakers present a difficult challenge for Miami with Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. During their playoff stretch, Miami has switched to a small-ball lineup.

Meyers Leonard has not been apart of the rotation since the start of the bubble. Kelly Olynyk was moved to the bench last round. How will Miami deal with the Lakers’ front-court? Will the Heat elect to stay with their effective small ball lineup, hoping to out-shoot the Lakers? Or will they change their rotation and revisit a larger, more physical presence down low? 

Expect the Heat and Erik Spoelstra to make some lineup adjustments come Game 1 Wednesday night. Olynyk will almost surely be brought in to help limit offensive rebounds and stretch the floor with his three-point stroke.

Leonard, who is the tallest player in the series at 7’1″, may play a larger role, as well. Although Meyers can also hoist an occasional three-point shot, he tends to reside in the paint. Coach Spo has been known to make drastic changes in his lineup by digging deep into the bench and making use of reserves after extended periods of absence. In the Eastern Conference Finals Games 5 and 6, he threw in Solomon Hill for minutes after he had been non-existent for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

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Despite the size difference between the teams’ normal rotations, Miami does show the ability to match LA down low. Whether Spoelstra decides to go that route or continue to play small ball is to be determined come Game 1. Bam Adebayo will have a lot on his plate if Miami goes with the same lineup they have been using this postseason. 

Slowing down LeBron will not be easy, either. With great length and strength on the wing position, Miami has 3-4 guys capable of doing so. Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. are all players who take pride in their defense. Butler and Iguodala have had success before in guarding James. Miami will only hope to contain him, because shutting him down is nearly impossible. 

Offensively, Miami’s game will speak for itself as long as they continue to shoot well from behind the arc. Goran Dragic has been on fire in the bubble and will continue to lead Miami’s offense. 

Garrett Brooks: Lakers Win Series 4-2, Finals MVP: LeBron James

The Heat are somehow still not getting the respect and appreciation they deserve from the general NBA fan base. One thing that’s a guarantee, though, is that the Lakers are not overlooking Miami. It’s no fluke that they are in the Finals, as is the case with the Lakers. Both these teams have certainly earned it, and have come together in the bubble to go on incredible runs.

The Heat match up very well with the Lakers, especially in comparison to the teams the Lakers have played so far in the playoffs. I expect each game of the series to go down to the wire, and think we could have an instant classic brewing in the bubble.

For Miami, Bam Adebayo is going to take that next step where he becomes a star to even casual fans. If Anthony Davis is still feeling ankle pain, the Lakers could be forced into asking LeBron to kick it up into another gear.

With that being said, I have the Lakers taking the series in six games. I see multiple games coming down to the veteran experience the Lakers have, with their star players being able to get to the free throw line more consistently than the Heat.

The Heat have a rare level of confidence and commitment to their team game, though, which is why I have them taking game one of the series. In the end, I think LeBron takes his game to a level he hasn’t gotten to in these playoffs to lead L.A. to victory.

About TLSM Staff

Articles by TLSM staff.

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