The 2019-20 NBA season has been a rollercoaster ride, to say the absolute least. With all the things that have made this season unique and unprecedented, there is a familiar sight to behold: LeBron James in the NBA Finals.
Of course, these aren’t your typical NBA Finals. Playing alongside the MLB Playoffs and NFL regular season, and with no fans in attendance, this year’s unique season will end in a unique championship series. With that, there is no doubt that for every team facing the same circumstances, a championship title this season would be just as well-earned as any other season.
The Miami Heat plowed through the Eastern Conference, including the heavily favored Milwaukee Bucks, to get to this point. Though the talk all season was about the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and perhaps the Boston Celtics, the Heat defied the odds to make the NBA Finals for the first time without Dwyane Wade.
However, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the NBA Bubble as favorites, and for good reason. They dominated the superior Western Conference in the regular season, and dropped just one game each to the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets in the playoffs.
After a dominant Game 1 performance by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers, the question doesn’t seem to be “who will win the NBA Finals”, but rather, “how many games will it take the Lakers to close out this championship?”
The Heat jumped out to an early 23-10 lead, spurred by a 13-0 run in the first quarter. However, they couldn’t hold onto that lead for the final five minutes of the quarter, trailing 31-28 by the end of the period.
Hot three-point shooting by the Lakers, dominant two-star play from James and Davis, and a couple of Heat player injuries put the game well out of reach by the second half. Both Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (shoulder) exited the game early. Jimmy Butler sustained an ankle strain and left the game as well.
If the Heat lose two or three starters, Miami could be in a tough position for the rest of the series. Even if Dragic, Adebayo, and Butler all continued to play, the Lakers were the flat-out better team on Wednesday night. By the end of the third quarter, the Lakers held a commanding 93-67 lead. Miami outscored Los Angeles 31-23 in the fourth quarter, but the game was well out of reach by that point.
Eastern Conference Finals hero Tyler Herro had 14 points in 30 minutes, but the Heat were outscored by an astounding 35 points with the rookie on the court in Game 1.
Whenever the Heat went on a run, the Lakers had an answer. Besides Butler (8-13 FG, 23 points) and Kendrick Nunn (8-11 FG, 18 points,), the Heat struggled to find consistent scorers. If Dragic, Butler or Adebayo do indeed miss games, the Lakers defense will have an even easier time shutting down the Heat’s scoring attack.
Sure, James (9-17 FG, 25 points) and Davis (11-21 FG, 34 points) didn’t get too much help from their supporting cast, but the formula that won them the most games in the Western Conference this season might just win them the NBA Championship with three more victories.
This Heat team is talented, as they had to be to dispatch the Bucks and Celtics. That being said, the Lakers are locked in, hitting their shots, and employing their two-star approach well so far in the NBA Finals.
Barring a drastic rise in play from the Heat bench, or an uncharacteristic off-night from James or Davis, there’s no reason the Lakers can’t win the next three games for a clean sweep of the NBA Finals.