Just a few seasons after LeBron James left Miami after anchoring two championship teams with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the team from Dade County is back without any of the aforementioned players, having rebuilt a championship contender from scratch.
In a twist of fate, the man that led the Heat to those back-to-back championships is now their opponent as the James-led Los Angeles Lakers face off against the Heat tonight for Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals.
Many expected that the Lakers would be here after they held a tight grasp onto the number one position in the Western Conference all season, but not many expected the same from the Heat. Most expected Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to make it to the Finals, or for the Toronto Raptors to make a repeat appearance, but instead, it’s the team that was the 5th seed that took out the Bucks and then the Boston Celtics.
Game 1 Schedule
Time: 9:00 PM ET
Arena: AdventHealth Arena, Orlando, FL
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Closer Look at the Lakers
LeBron James – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Danny Green – Anthony Davis – JaVale McGee
The Lakers obviously have the star power with arguably two of the top 10 players in the league in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and they performed well in the Western Conference Finals against Denver, dispatching the Nuggets in a gentleman’s sweep of five games.
However, the Lakers have shown some cracks in the foundation before, especially when they have to count on more than their star duo to provide offense. Both Caldwell-Pope and Green have struggled to knock down shots at times. They’ll need both players, as well as their scorers off the bench, most notably Kyle Kuzma, to provide offense.
Defensively, Green and Caldwell-Pope will also be important, as will JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard after Bam Adebayo played exceptionally well against the Celtics.
“They have three All-Star-level players in Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic,” Lakers coach Vogel told the Miami Herald. “When healthy, Dragic is an All-Star-level player. They (acquired) a Hall of Famer in Andre Iguodala.
“They have shooting, they have toughness. No surprise they’ve had such a successful postseason run. Very impressed with what they’ve been able to do beating three teams convincingly that if we played 82 games were on pace to win 50 games,” Vogel added.
At one point this season, it seemed like the other Los Angeles team, the Clippers, could be the favorite to make it to the Finals, but one season after James had to sit out in the playoffs, he looks to possibly add a fourth ring to his collection.
Closer Look at the Heat
Goran Dragic – Jimmy Butler – Duncan Robinson – Jae Crowder – Bam Adebayo
Let’s be honest for a second. Not many predicted that the Heat would be here as they prepare for their first NBA Finals since 2014. The Heat have been an underdog in every playoff matchup this postseason as the fifth seed, and they consistently proved that they were much better than their record.
The Heat have slowly built up, developing Bam Adebayo into a All-Star level center, drafting well and selecting key players Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro in the draft, and then landing free agent prize Jimmy Butler, who adds toughness and veteran savvy to this Heat team.
“We’re going to have to play damn near perfect because they’re such a good team and they do so many things well,” Butler said.
“Obviously, you know the star power that they have. We’re not going to back down, though. … We’re going to lock into this film and we’re going to be ready to go. I think it will be some must-see TV.”
After James left head coach Erick Spoelstra and executive Pat Riley along with the rest of the Heat, it would be sweet redemption for the Heat to be able to add another title to his collection and for Tomball-native Jimmy Butler to get his first ring.
Defense will be important for the Heat, and the potential LeBron James vs. Jimmy Butler matchup should be good enough to get plenty of people to tune in tonight. And if that isn’t enough, the Davis-Adebayo matchup will also be must-see TV as Butler said.
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