#1 Seed WCF Winner Lakers v. #5 Seed ECF Winner Heat
Lakers in 5.
The 2020 NBA Finals Matchup is officially set with the Los Angeles Lakers squaring up against the Miami Heat. Narratives have already started to swirl, but the two most prominent are the unfamiliar and unprecedented circumstances of the Orlando Bubble (caused by the COVID pandemic), and the fact LeBron James is going up against his former franchise in the Miami Heat. In his four years in Miami LeBron led the Heat to four straight NBA Finals winning two NBA Titles and two FMVP awards. The paths to the Finals for both these teams have been different this year, but both teams made quick work of their opening three opponents in these playoffs.
The Miami Heat have exceeded expectations so far in these playoffs. They entered the postseason as the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference and their road to the Finals has not been easy. That has not stopped the Heat from breezing through the Eastern Conference with a 12-3 record thus far and being seemingly unphased by whoever has been in their way. In their first round matchup, the Heat faced off against the #4 seed Indiana Pacers who they quickly swept in four consecutive games. In the second round, the Heat experienced much of the same success as they took the #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks out via a gentleman’s sweep. The Bucks were many people’s favorite pick to make it out of the East, who were led by back-to-back MVP and DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Jimmy Butler led Heat did not let that derail them however, as the only game the Bucks were able to win was Game 4 when Giannis went down for the remainder of game and ultimately the series with an injury. Then the ECF was next for the Miami Heat where they faced off with the #3 seed Boston Celtics. The Miami Heat defeated the Celtics in 6 and sent the young star studded duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown home packing with their Finals aspirations unfulfilled.
The Los Angeles Lakers have also exceeded many people’s expectations this season, after many prominent ex-players and media members continually coined them the 2nd best team in LA all season long. This mainly became the narrative after the Clippers pulled off a big offseason haul of two of the best two-way forwards in the NBA today in the reigning FMVP Kawhi Leonard and California native Paul George. This did not stop the LA Lakers, led by the newly-formed star-studded duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, from reaching their ultimate goal of a Finals appearance in their first season together. In their first round matchup the Lakers faced off against the #8 seed Portland Trailblazers and after dropping game one of that series, rattled off four consecutive victories leading to a first round gentleman’s sweep. Much of the same was ahead for the Lakers in their second round matchup with the James Harden led Houston Rockets. After dropping Game one by 19 points the Lakers responded well again also taking care of the Rockets with another gentleman’s sweep for the second consecutive round. The gentleman’s sweep parade was not over for the Lakers. In the WCF the Lakers faced off against the #3 seed Denver Nuggets who were coming off two consecutive 3-1 comebacks against the Utah Jazz and LA Clippers in their first two playoff series’. The Lakers did in fact go up 3-1 against the Nuggets, but the Nuggets 3-1 magic ran short as the Lakers once again took care of business in five games. The Lakers matched the Heat’s postseason record of 12-3 thus far.
Now onto the grand finale where these two teams meet up after playing two regular season games against each other, with the Lakers winning the season series 2-0. The Lakers won the early season matchup convincingly 95-80 in the Staples Center and then won the second game in closer fashion in Miami 113-110 extending the second longest road-winning streak in franchise history to 13 games with this victory.
As I said above I see the Lakers beating the Heat via their fourth consecutive gentleman’s sweep of the postseason and here’s why:
The main reason is the Lakers are led by a Future First Ballot Hall of Famer in LeBron James, who has lived in the NBA Finals over the past decade, making the Finals every single year for the last ten years everytime his team has made the playoffs. The bright lights of the Finals are nothing new to LeBron and this will actually be only the third time in his ten trips to the Finals where his team has been the favorite in the series. LeBron also has the best big man talent in the NBA in Anthony Davis at his disposal, who many consider to also be a top five NBA talent currently. Davis and James both won 1st-Team All-NBA honors this season and repeatedly have made clear that the job is not finished until they hoist that Larry O’ Brien trophy for the 17th time in Lakers team history.
The Lakers are also the more experienced team in this series. The Miami Heat are unquestionably led by Veteran SG/SF Jimmy Butler who always plays with a chip on his shoulder, but many of the other key players on Miami roster are very young players. F Bam Adebayo and breakout rookie star G in these playoffs Tyler Herro are the main key to Miami’s youth success. If Miami wishes to have a chance in this series they are going to need huge contributions from all three of these players I just mentioned above.
Ultimately I see the Lakers winning this series based on the fact that in my opinion they are just the better team overall and have the Finals experience to fall back on when the going gets tough. The Lakers will win the NBA Title for the 17th time in their franchise’s history and LeBron will win his 4th NBA Title and tack on a 4th FMVP award. James will shutdown his former team, but that does not mean I do not see the Heat contending for many more championships in the near future.