This NBA Finals matchup will be an impressive clash of styles
After a hiatus and an exciting three rounds of playoff basketball in the Bubble, we have finally made it to the NBA Finals, which will see the LA Lakers face-off against the Miami Heat. Both the Heat and the Lakers comfortably progressed through their respective conferences to reach this point, with opponents never winning more than two games in a series. But how do these two teams match up against each other? Who is the favorite?
Let’s take a look at a few things.
The duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis has been an absolute handful for defenders this postseason and nearly impossible to stop. LeBron James is averaging a staggering 26.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, and 8.9 app while Anthony Davis is averaging 28.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and 1.2 bpg. Ridiculous.
However, the production drops off quickly after those two, with only one other player averaging double-digit points in Kyle Kuzma (granted, KCP is right behind Kuzma at 9.9 ppg). The next difference maker for this team is Playoff Rondo, who is averaging 9.1 ppg, 7.2 apg, and a team-leading 1.6 SPG…all in just 24 minutes of action per game. It’s clear when Rajon is on the court the Lakers are a better team on both sides of the ball, as Rondo pesters guards and utilizes his high hoops IQ to get his teammates open looks.
Role players will need to step up to contest Miami’s depth in the NBA Finals. LA has a size advantage on the Heat; look for them to exploit that, especially if Bam plays well and forces Dwight Howard into the game. We all saw the impact Howard had in the Nuggets series. Defensively, the Lakers have been solid and have done a great job reacting to the different offenses they face, as evidenced by two Game One losses that turned into 4-1 series wins.
Vogel knows he has great verticality, rim protection, and adaptability with his team and will surely adapt to the Heat's offense. You’ll see a lot of switching on sharpshooters Herro and Robinson in order to minimize their deep threat.
While the Miami Heat will not be able to stop LeBron and AD, particularly in the NBA Finals, they can hope to contain them and wear them down. The Heat have several tough, athletic, and rangy defenders in Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, and super vet Andre Iguodala. There is no doubt Spoelstra will be unleashing these guys on LeBron to slow him down and keep him out of the paint, where he makes a killing.
Of course, this will tire out Heat players and negatively affect their offensive numbers but that might not be an issue with six Heat players averaging double-digits. It’s offense-by-committee for these guys.
Holding it down in the paint is Bam Adebayo, who has been a defensive beast in these playoffs. Bam was also a nightmare for Giannis and will likely cause issues for AD, as he can cover him both inside and outside the arc. Spoelstra will likely mix up defenses, with his effective zone defense forcing the Lakers to find a way to attack it, since they probably won’t be able to shoot themselves out of it.
Surprisingly, the Miami Heat have been led by Goran Dragic with his 20.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and 4.7 apg. He has completely outplayed opposing guards throughout the playoffs and it’s crazy to think none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for a Kendrick Nunn ankle injury that pushed him into a starting role.
It’s been pretty obvious the Heat have embraced Butler's intensity and have emulated it; they never seem to relent. If Goran can keep up this high level of play, the defense is able to slowdown LeBron and AD, and the Heat offense continues to put up points, we could be looking at a potential NBA Finals upset in Disney World.
I do not want to make an NBA Finals prediction here because the Heat have been truly special and surprising throughout the playoffs.
But. I have to.
Lakers in 6. LeBron is on a mission for #4 and I don’t think anyone will stop that man.