BACK in the early 2010s, when Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were at the peak of their careers, many fans and analysts alike predicted an NBA Finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. In that era, we never got a single series between the two teams. Fast forward to 2020, and they have finally set up what was once a dream matchup. It’s the Lakers and the Heat in the 2020 NBA Bubble Finals. LeBron James against his former team. “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!”
Starting Five. The Lakers will most likely go with their big man lineup, with superstar LeBron James running the point; shooters Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the wings; and All-Star centers Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard manning the post. The Heat will have a smaller unit, with veteran guards Goran Dragić and Jimmy Butler; reliable shooters Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder; and dominant big man Bam Adebayo. Just by having James and Davis, the Lakers take an automatic huge advantage in terms of starting unit. The key question in this series is whether or not the Heat can contain those two superstars.
Bench. Los Angeles’ bench is highlighted by playoff veteran Rajon Rondo, rising star Kyle Kuzma, and fan favorite Alex Caruso. Miami’s bench is led by three-time champion Andre Iguodala, along with sharpshooter Tyler Herro, and big man Kelly Olynyk. Both benches lack crucial players, but with Iguodala’s leadership and talent, the Heat hold a slight edge.
Coach. Both teams have veteran coaches in Frank Vogel and Erik Spoelstra. Both have the ability to control teams that have multiple superstars. Spoelstra, however, has won championships in the past, and has designed a complex 2-3 zone defense that helped them rise in the Eastern Conference.
Regular season head-to-head. Los Angeles swept the regular season series against Miami, 2-0. They blew the Heat out 95-80 in Staples Center last November; and followed it up with a 113-110 win in Miami last December. These games, however, were played before the Heat signed Iguodala and Crowder. Lakers guard Avery Bradley was also active that time; whereas he is currently inactive because he did not join the NBA bubble.
The Lakers led the Heat in many statistical categories during the regular season.
Those include points per game, points given up per game, and rebounds per game. But the key to the Heat’s Cinderella run in the playoffs has been their three-point shooting. They made 13.3 threes so far in the playoffs, against the Lakers’ 11.3— a significant difference. With today’s modern game centered around three-point shooting, this area should be a point of emphasis for the Lakers’ defense during their film sessions.
Predictions. The Lakers are nearly unstoppable on both ends of the floor; but the series will not end early due to Miami’s depth which can match that of the opposition, and the absence of home court advantage.
Because the Heat have momentum off of their terrific 4th quarter in Game 6 vs Boston, they should be able to carry this into Game 1 vs the Lakers; which they win. The Lakers go on to take Games 2 and 3 convincingly. Jimmy Butler’s clutch instincts will lead the Heat to a Game 4 win, tying the series.
A game-winner in the last minute will propel the Lakers to a Game 5 win. And in Game 6, a dominant 4th quarter led by Anthony Davis will seal the deal; and will win the Lakers its 17th championship, tying the Celtics for most all-time.
All eyes will be on Anthony Davis, who will average 25+ points and 10+ rebounds per game in the series. But the Finals MVP award will go to LeBron James. He has the ability to singlehandedly change the momentum of a game. Overall, he will average a triple-double. It will go down as a fitting tribute to his predecessor, Kobe Bryant.
Overall prediction: Lakers in 6