This years’ NBA Finals will look a bit different. Not just because it’s in a bubble on a neutral court, but because it will feature a mix of savvy veterans and emerging stars in this series. It’s between the Los Angeles Lakers, the number one seed in the West, and the Miami Heat. With veterans like Rajon Rondo and LeBron James, they both know what it feels like to be at this moment. James now has 10 Finals appearances in his 17 seasons in the league. He also has appeared in nine of the last ten NBA Finals. These stats alone are jaw-dropping.
Both teams enter this matchup with excellent defenses, but its Miami’s offense that’s carried them this far. The team has several players that can knock down 3-pointers with ease like Duncan Robinson and the 20-year old rookie Tyler Herro. Not to mention they have a crafty Jimmy Butler who seems to always find his way to the free-throw line. Robinson is also the only player in the league in the top five of both total 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage. The Heat haven’t made the Finals since 2014 when they had the “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. During his playoff runs in Cleveland, James has never faced his old team in the playoffs.
Miami also has a veteran leader in Andre Iguodala coming off the bench. He and Jae Crowder came over from Memphis in a mid-season trade. This will make six consecutive trips to the Finals for Iguodala. He was one of the key factors that helped them end the series with Boston.
The Lakers on the other hand play a bit differently. They don’t have the perimeter threats that the Heat does but are a very dangerous team in transition. Defensively they led the league in blocks and finished the closeout series with the Denver Nuggets with seven. They were ranked the third-best team in the league defensively.
One of the key things to looks for during this series will be if Miami can hold onto a lead. This season they got out to good starts in the first quarter outscoring opponents by 13 but lost 18 games where they held a lead of 10 or more. One of those losses came from the Lakers who came back from a 14 point deficit. They are a superior first-half team but tend to struggle after the break. The third quarter is always very crucial in their games because they tend to get outscored during this time.
At age 35, James shows no signs of slowing down. This will be the third team he’s helped lead to the Finals. In the playoffs, he averages 30 points while making 55% of his shots. However, he’s had plenty of help from All-Star Anthony Davis who’s been commanding during his time in the bubble. He’s averaging 28.8 points on 57.1% shooting through 15 games. The Lakers have only lost one game in each of their playoff series this far and they hope this trend continues on Wednesday night.