Finally, after a long 11-month journey, the NBA Finals are here, and it is not the matchup many expected when we started the season last October. It’s the LeBron James led Lakers versus the Cinderella story Miami Heat. This is a very intriguing matchup, so let’s break it down.
Superstars vs. Depth: The Lakers are led by Anthony Davis and LeBron James, two superstars who both made the All-NBA first team. Meanwhile for Miami, they have no established superstar and are filled with guys who came from nowhere to the biggest stage in basketball. The Heat’s starting guard/forward Duncan Robinson even played division 3 basketball at the beginning of his collegiate career. These teams are complete opposite, and it will be interesting to see whether superstars can beat an all around team with no clear star.
Two defensive teams: It is no secret that the Lakers and Heat are two of the best defensive teams in the league. Anthony Davis was voted second for Defensive Player of the Year and the Heat’s defense is anchored by one of the best defensive wings in the NBA Jimmy Butler, and the emerging star that is Bam Adebayo. Defense may ultimately decide who wins the story, and we will see if either team can figure out each other’s defensive sets.
Shooting: The Lakers are known for their struggles to shoot the ball from deep, while the Heat have established shooters such as Duncan Robinson, and the rookie out of Kentucky Tyler Herro, who can go off for 40 points when he is hot. We saw the heat run a zone that shut down the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and made them shoot, and we should expect to see that in the finals, given the Lakers interior presence. If the Lakers fail to shoot the 3 even slightly well, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they come out on top.
X-Factors: Championship teams always need that extra guy to get them over the hump. Both of these teams have players who can do that. For the Heat it’s Andre Iguadola. The former champion is a big reason why the Warriors defeated Lebron’s Cavs a few years back. Iggy is known to hit clutch shots, and if he comes up big and shows he can hang with LeBron on the defensive end, the Heat’s chances skyrocket. For the Lakers, it’s the former Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard and the youngster Kyle Kuzma. Dwight Howard took Nikola Jokic out of the equation against Denver in the Western Conference Final, and he’ll need to do the same against Bam Adebayo. Meanwhile Kyle Kuzma, who’s struggled in the playoffs, will need to step up, and hit clutch shots.
Predictions: While this series will be gritty, I think the Lakers star power will be too much and they will defeat the Miami Heat in 6 games, earning them their record tying 17th championship and adding on to LeBron’s incredible resume.
The NBA Finals start Wednesday night on ABC, where we will see it all go down!