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Bubble NBA Finals: The Finale

NBA Finals Preview

Nearly a year after the season started and only a month-or-two from the next season, the conclusion of the 19/20 NBA season is finally upon us with the revamped Lakers and the scrappy Miami Heat in the Finals after 15 games apiece. Brought forth with nearly the same amount of rest and health, there are no excuses, no fans, and no more questions on who the best of each conference. The only question that remains is who is the best in all the NBA? Read on for preview, stats, and my NBA Finals winner prediction.

Los Angeles Lakers

One year after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, LeBron is back in the Finals for the 10th time and is heavily favored with another top 5 player in Anthony Davis who was acquired by the Lakers this past offseason. This power couple combined with the unlikely heroes of Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has brought the Lakers to the verge of an LA championship. With these details in mind, let’s review how their playoff run has gone so far:

The Lakers have lost 3 total games in these playoffs. 1 in each round and sprinted to the NBA Finals. The opposing teams just did not have an answer for King James and AD who together averaged over 55 combined points a game and were coupled with excellent defense from those 2 and Dwight Howard who harassed the best big man in the NBA in Nikola Jokic. James and AD are also combining for over 4 blocks and steals combined per game and close to 20 rebounds. As far as their help, Rajon Rondo has been shooting a career-high 44.8% from 3-point land in the Playoffs and 45.5% in the Nuggets series while averaging 1.2 steals per game out of the 9 per game the Lakers were averaging. The Lakers are a very physical team and bullied their opposing teams into the ground through their size and aggressive defense. They also are efficient with a .563% eFG with most of their players over the 50% FG wall.

If the Lakers have a weakness, it’s that they aren’t the deadliest team from the 3-point line. When they are off and shoot below 30%, they lose very convincingly. That could turn into a problem for a Miami team that has a plethora of 3-point shooters. The Lakers more than make up for it with LeBron and AD being able to get calls and finish tough baskets down low and become 3-point players without ever having to go downtown. AD specifically shot 90.9% on free throws in the Denver series and constantly put Nikola Jokic and foul trouble and will need to do more of the same against the All-Defensive stud of Bam Adebayo.

Miami Heat

A 5-seed that I originally doubted in the opening round has proved me wrong by playing like a true number one seed and advancing to the Finals in the same amount of games as the Lakers (15). Behind a very deep roster and excellent coaching, the Heat dismissed the Pacers in 4, the MVP’s team in 5, and similarly deep all-around team in 6 against Boston. Made up of players teams didn’t want in Jae Crowder, Iguodola, and Jimmy Butler, the Heat have strung together an impressive roster that has blown by opponents in the 4th quarter and have won in a plethora of ways.

With this Heat team it is certainly a pick-your-poison type of deal. Jimmy Butler was the Heat’s leading scorer in the regular season, but this past series had a different leading scorer in each win other than Adebayo doing it twice. This last series also featured rookie Tyler Herro dropping 37 points one game and shooting 52% from the field. Duncan Robinson also shot an absurd 40% from 3 this last series. That brings me to the Heat’s best strength surprisingly has been 3-point shooting where they have shot 37.9% on about 35 shots a game throughout this postseason. The Heat are also all about crunch time with their +68 points in the fourth quarter being a huge reason why they are in the Finals right now as they are. If the Heat are to have any sort of chance, they will need the 21-11-5-1.7-1.0 statline from Adebayo for a whole series against a looming Anthony Davis.

The Heat do have some concerns being that they lost both matchups to the Lakers in the regular season with no answers to AD and James (just like everybody else). Butler will have to be more productive on offense and shoot better than 16% from 3 than he did in the Celtics series. I feel like they will also have a challenge with the referees and need to make sure to conserve the fouls they give/take and who gives them against the LAbron Lakers who have been amazing at drawing fouls and being given fouls.

Verdict:

Back in 2009, Kobe Bryant beat the Rockets in 5 games in the semis, and then beat the Nuggets in the WCF before going onto the Finals and winning the series and another Finals MVP. For James, he just isn’t playing the Boston Celtics but is very familiar with the Heat organization and their star players. While this will be a tantalizing series, I just don’t see how Butler and company can stack up against a Lakers team that has proven to be amongst one of the most physical and talented teams I have seen in the NBA in a long time.

Winner: Lakers in 7

Written by Kodey Stauffer

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