Miami has its work cut out for them in the NBA Finals as they will face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers present unique matchup problems for Miami. L.A. has two first-team All-NBA players in James and Anthony Davis surrounded by a host of savvy veteran players with championship experience. However, styles make fights and Miami may have a puncher’s chance.
The Heat played Los Angeles twice during the regular season in which the Lakers came away with wins in both games. The Lakers cruised to a 95-80 in the Staples Center in the early part of the season. Jimmy Butler led Miami with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Bam Adebayo chipped in 11 points and 9 boards and Goran Dragic had 19 with 7 assists.
Miami was outrebounded 48-37 in the game, with Javale McGee, Davis and James combining for 22 of those boards. Ball movement was also lacking for Miami in the game. The Heat finished with only 18 assists compared to the 30 for L.A. It was the ninth game of the season.
The second win came down to a Davis shot late that led to a 113-110 thriller in Miami. Again, Butler was Miami’s leading scorer with 23 and Kendrick Nunn added 16 points in 36 minutes. Even with Bam grabbing 12 boards, Miami was still outrebounded by the Lakers, 50-34. Again McGee, Davis, LeBron and Dwight Howard led in those efforts.
Both rosters have seen major overhauls since they last met. Both Nunn and Meyers Leonard were starters and now neither player is in the rotation. Miami had yet to trade for Andre Iguodala or Jae Crowder, both who figure to play major roles in this series. And then there is Dion Waiters, who the Heat can’t seem to get rid of no matter what they do.
The Lakers are without Avery Bradley, a major contributor and starter during the regular season. Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso have seen their roles increase as a result. However, the main thing is still the main thing for the Lakers. James and Davis have lived up to their reputations as top-5 players in the league in the bubble. They will continue to be the engines for everything L.A. will try to do.
The Lakers will be the prohibitive favorite in this series, but that has been the case for the Heat in nearly every series. In each instance, where the opponents figured to have more talent, Miami has been able to win using a variety of methods. Head coach Erik Spoelstra has engineered strategies to neutralize league-MVP Giannis Antentokoumpto and bewilder the ultra-talented Boston Celtics.
Miami has used hard-nosed defense and efficient offense to overcome what some view as a talent disparity in respect to their opponent. The key to this series will be if Miami can find a way to bother the Lakers dynamic duo. Easier said than done, right? Miami has the advantage in terms of guard play and overall depth. Outside of James and AD, the Lakers roster leaves a lot to be desired. The two average 25 and 26, respectively. Kyle Kuzma is the team’s next highest scorer at 12.
Miami’s balanced attack has six players averaging double figures in the postseason, led by Dragic at 21 points per game. Tyler Herro, who scored 14 points total in the two regular season meetings, will add an element that the Heat were lacking before the bubble. If he continues his current level of play, he could lead Miami’s bench against a lackluster Laker second unit.
Other factors include Miami’s ability to throw multiple bodies at James, 3-point shooting, defensive matchups and smallball lineups.
Butler, Crowder and Iguodala are all veteran defenders with experience covering LeBron. Bam may also spend a few possessions on him as well. Having that experience, albeit regular season except for Iguodala, should bode well in terms of making James work for his baskets. Bam seems to be the only reasonable matchup for AD. There is nobody else on the roster with the combination of length, athleticism and speed to deal with him. Having Duncan Robinson guard Danny Green keeps him out of foul trouble and on the floor. Unless……ya know…….the refs call some more of those invisible Duncan fouls they love so much.
If LA is going to start two bigs, that could also work in Miami’s favor depending on if Crowder finds his shot. In the past four games, Crowder has been left wide open for three. He will need to convert in this series to maximize the floor spacing. Forcing LA to play smaller is Miami’s best chance to keep this series competitive because they don’t have the bigs to deal with Davis, McGee and Howard.
Ultimately, this series will be the most difficult of them all, as it should be. The Lakers will be the ultimate test. If the previous series are any indication, the Heat will be prepared.