Bubble Championship: Heat vs. Lakers Finals Preview

The 2020 NBA season finally reaches its climax in Disney World as the LA Lakers and Miami Heat battle it out for the 2020 NBA Championship.

Both of these teams are peaking at the right time, playing their best basketball of the season during the Playoffs. Their superstars, down to the bench guys have been coming up with big plays down the stretch, all in the quest for a championship. This will be the first time the Lakers and Heat will face each other in the Finals and both teams will present a different brand of basketball that is bound to be must-watch TV.

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Road to the Finals

Nobody could have expected that the NBA Finals will be played in September and let alone in a bubble but here we are. Both teams entered the season different expectations, but they have been able to adjust well in the bubble and reached the 12 necessary wins to make it to the Finals.

The Lakers are playing like the championship contender they’re advertised to be after they got both LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the offseason. The star duo has dominated the season, finishing as the first tandem in the All-NBA First team since 2004. Coach Frank Vogel should be given credit too by transforming the Lakers into the third-best defensive team during the season with the best record in the Western Conference at 52-19. The Lakers have been able to adjust their game plan around their matchups in the Playoffs—dispatching the Blazers in five by running big lineups, grounding the Rockets in five by playing Davis or Markieff Morris at center, and defeating the Nuggets in five games as well through sheer star power and the overall effort by everyone.

The Heat are the biggest winners from the COVID-19 hiatus as they were able to regroup as a team by getting key players healthy and refueling their offense churning out the fourth-best Offensive Rating in the Playoffs at 113.4. The Heat made key acquisitions during the offseason and trade deadline by snapping up Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, and Andre Iguodala. Their young stars have shined as well with Bam Adebayo as a MIP candidate, Tyler Herro as a sleeper ROY pick, and Duncan Robinson as an undrafted revelation. The South Beach identity of grit and toughness has trickled down to the whole roster, as their zone defense, drive-and-kick offense, and teamwork has excelled thus far. They swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round, pulled a massive upset over the league-leading Bucks in the second round, and handled the Boston Celtics in six games on their way to the Finals.

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Matchup Preview

The NBA Finals presents a matchup that will test the veteran-laden, talented Lakers against the young and hungry Miami Heat.

The Lakers won the season series 2-0 over the Heat as the game in Los Angeles ended in a blowout and the game in Miami wrapped up with a nail-biter. Frank Vogel has been able to adjust his rotation based on their opponent in the Playoffs but has been consistent in running their stars above 35 minutes a game. Key contributions from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard have been key for them to fill the “third-star” void during the Playoffs.

Erik Spoelstra meanwhile has stretched his lineups as deep as a 10-man rotation during the Playoffs. His starters have set the tone for the rest of the team as his trademark zone-defense has proven to be effective in their march to the Finals thus far.

The Davis and Adebayo matchup will be an interesting battle to watch out for as both DPOY candidates can defend each other straight up and still have the versatility to provide value on offense. Likewise, James meets a familiar foe in the Finals in Igoudala, while Butler, and Crowder are formidable defenders against the King. Key players from both teams will have to step up. Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Goran Dragic have sparked the Heat’s run in the postseason and they will need to continue that hot streak in the Finals. Finding consistent scoring for the Lakers will be key throughout the series especially when AD or LeBron head to the bench if they are to capture the elusive title for LA.

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Storylines to watch out for

As this season reaches its final chapter, many storylines surround this inter-conference matchup in the championship.

James will face his former team after his departure from South Beach in 2014. This will be his ninth Finals appearance in 10 years while this will be the first run of Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis in their careers. Frank Vogel will compete in his first-ever Finals while Erik Spoelstra will aim for his third ring in five tries. The Miami Heat will join the 1995 Houston Rockets and the 1999 New York Knicks as a team trying to win a title as a lower-seeded team not in the top four of the conference. The Los Angeles Lakers will look for their 17th championship as a franchise—hoping to tie with the Boston Celtics with the most titles in NBA history. This will also be the first Finals series played in a bubble without any fans. Here’s to hoping that storyline is the first & last time this happens.

In an NBA season ending with so much drama and unknown factors, a Lakers-Heat matchup is a Finals everybody will be anticipating. It is unfortunate that fans would not be available in the arenas for the championship round, but expect fireworks from both sides as a championship is on the line in the next couple of games. The Finals is where legacies are created and damaged so it is interesting to watch who will step up in the biggest stage of basketball to date.