2020 NBA Finals Preview

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Orlando, Florida will host the first-ever neutral-site NBA Finals. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Colin Loughran, Contributing Writer

After a grueling season filled with uncertainty, we have finally reached the NBA Finals. This season will conclude with a best-of-seven series between LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers and a Miami Heat team that is packed with budding all-stars. Ultimately, this year’s Finals will be a “David and Goliath” battle. Will the highly touted Lakers capture their 17th title? Or will the rough riders from South Beach shock the world and take home the hardware?

Entering this season, the Lakers were expected to be one of the West’s most dominant teams. With the off-season addition of Anthony Davis, Lebron James was given a legitimate big man that could play lockdown defense and score points in a plethora of ways. Davis and James did not disappoint, averaging 26.1 and 25.3 points, respectively, during the regular season. Along with this killer combo, the Lakers were aided by key players such as grizzled veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard, as well as younger contributors like Kyle Kuzma. As a team, the Lakers ran roughshod through the regular season competition, going 52-19 and securing the West’s top seed. The playoffs were more of the same for Los Angeles. They went 12-3 and easily defeated the Trailblazers, Rockets and Nuggets. This is a team that was expected not only to make a deep playoff run, but to finish the job. 

Meanwhile in South Beach, the 2020 Miami Heat faced a much different road to the Finals. Even with a seasoned point guard in Goran Dragic and the free agent signings of Jimmy Butler and Andre Iguodala, the Heat were not favored to win the East. Critics were quick to support squads like the Raptors and Bucks who had more playoff pedigree and star power. Miami delivered a 44-29 record, which was good enough to attain the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. What happened next was far from the expected outcome. Much like their Western Conference opponent, the Heat enjoyed a dominant playoff run. They dismantled the Indiana Pacers and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks in the first two rounds. Their only real challenge came in the Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, who were able to extend the series to six games, but ultimately Miami emerged victorious by playing a more physical brand of basketball. Breakout studs Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo were all greater playoff factors than anybody expected. Adebayo secured a game 1 victory against Boston by daring to meet Jason Tatum at the rim, and sharpshooter Tyler Herro later dropped 37 points in a game 4 victory. All the while Duncan Robinson played valuable minutes and continually drained 3-pointers. As a result, Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic had a reliable cast of characters who were hungry for success. While Miami may not have been many people’s pick to reach the Finals, the rough riders have unequivocally earned the right to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo will be a key matchup. All eyes will certainly be on King James and Jimmy Butler. However, the competition under the rim could prove to be the series’ deciding factor. Given that Miami normally starts Jae Crowder at power forward, one would expect that he would switch with Adebayo, who normally starts at center. This would force Davis to match up with Adebayo at power forward. If Miami is going to win this series, Adebayo will have to find a way to contain Davis both inside and outside of the paint. It is a well known fact that Davis is a monster in the paint, but it may be his perimeter prowess that will give Adebayo fits. Davis drained a buzzer-beater from downtown to win game 2 of the West Finals, proving that he can “clutch up” from behind the arc when it matters most. What’s more, he hit the shot over Nikola Jokic, who is one of the league’s best centers. While Miami has been known to employ a zone defense from time to time, it is not realistic to use it for the entirety of the series. They will have to man up on defense at some point. Adebayo will have to rise to the occasion in order to give his team a fighting chance. Otherwise, LeBron will be content to serve as a pure playmaker and let Davis ball all the way to the title.

I’m picking the Lakers in six, with Anthony Davis as the MVP. Ultimately, this is the Lakers’ series to lose. They have had a dominant run thus far and I expect Jamesand Davis to finish the job. The series will be close, but experience will ultimately reign supreme. The Lakers vets will pester the Heat’s young sharpshooters, Davis will win Finals MVP by handling Adebayo’s defensive pressure and LeBron will be a master facilitator.