In what is the longest NBA season thus far, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat will cross paths in the finals in the bubble in Orlando.
Many storylines are moving about, but the two that stand out are LeBron James against his old team, and Pat Riley against his old team. Pat Riley played for the Lakers and won a Championship in 1972 while Lebron James played for the Miami Heat between 2010 and 2014 leading the team to back-to-back NBA Championships in 2012 and 2013.
It is the first time in the cometition’s histroy that the two finalists didn’t make the postseason the year earlier. The LA Lakers will be gunning for their 17th championship while the Heat want to climb to the fourth floor.
The Miami Heat swept past Pacers in the opening postseason round, before seeing off the top seed, Giannis Antentokunmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks, in the conference semis. The Boston Celtics would later prove a tougher nut to crack, but Spoelstra’s charges got the job done in 6 games to win the Eastern Conference Finals. The Lakers, on the other hand, lost their first games of the opening postseason fixture and semis (Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets respectively), before seeing off Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets in 5 games in the Western Conference Finals.
Lakers will be looking to three-time NBA Champion Lebron James and his All-NBA First Team teammate Anthony Davis for guidance in what will be Lebron’s 10th outing in the finals. “Playoff Rondo” will be another experienced head the Los Angeles team will need to come out and play. Three-time Defensive Player Of The Year Dwight Howard is expected to have another say on defense after he matched-up with and closed-out Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic in the Western Conference Finals.
In what many would say is a team of no already made superstars, Miami Heat is sure to rely on Bam Adebayo’s defensive explosiveness, Jimmy Butler’s leadership, Andre Iguodala’s NBA Finals experience, and the hot-on-form duo of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Second-year Adebayo had a massive game 6 against Boston Celtics ensuring the Heat saw off the latter, and that is exactly what the Miami Heat wants him to bring to the table.
The story is fancying the Lakers a lot more, given the stats from their intensity as the playoffs went on, the idea of winning it in honor of the late Kobe Bryant is another log into the fire.
Some number to crunch on:
The Lakers have averaged 40.7 points per game in the restricted area in the playoffs. That’s down from a league-high 44.1 in the regular season, but still 7.5 more than any other team has averaged in the postseason.
By wide margins, the Lakers rank first in both field goal percentage in the restricted area (70.9%) and the percentage of their shots that have come in the restricted area (34%). LeBron James is responsible for almost half (48%) of their 610 restricted area points via his own buckets (87) and assists (59).