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NBA Bubblegum Observations Part V: Finals Edition

The unexpected matchup between the Heat and Lakers makes for an interesting Finals showcase in an interesting Finals scenario

Kofi Amankwaa Jr.
Sep 30, 2020 · 9 min read

It’s finally here!

The 2020 NBA Finals is set to premiere tonight at 9PM in the Orlando Bubble! Credit to the league for doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the players and getting to this point without any setbacks. As I mentioned before, I can be the first to admit that I was wrong on the matter. My concerns were valid but luckily nothing became awry since the NBA restart.

So now we can concentrate on the most exciting basketball game of the year.

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© Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/Slate Magazine/NBA

The Miami Heat came in as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and trounced all the top competitors including the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics. They were considered underdogs throughout the postseason and somehow rose above the odds. Credit to head coach Erik Spoelstra, superstar Jimmy Butler, rising All Star Bam Adebayo, and team president Pat Riley for putting together a talented squad that can make a ruckus in the league. Nobody really expected the Heat to come out on top the way they did but here we are.

The Heat’s “pace and space” offense — where they utilize small ball lineups — has made it difficult for top defensive teams to figure out. The Bucks and Celtics didn’t have an answer to the Heat’s offensive gunners like Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Goran Dragic. Plus, the zone defense — as simple as it is — has been helpful in disrupting the flow of opposing teams. Adebayo has been a terror to defend from opposing bigs. As a small ball center, he has the athleticism, range, and defensive prowess that will make Draymond Green blush.

As for Butler, he finally found a home where he can serve as the focal point of his offense and a team that will let “Jimmy be Jimmy.” He hasn’t had that type of freedom since playing under his former mentor Tom Thibodeau for the Chicago Bulls during the mid to late 2010s (let’s not speak on their disastrous reunion in Minnesota). Butler is one of the best two way wings in the league and so far he’s been lighting it up in the postseason. Spoelstra has made sure to enable Butler as the lead playmaker with Dragic — serving as starting point guard — as the lead ball handler, secondary playmaker and scorer. It has worked wonders for the team and no question that has put them in a position to be a top contending team in the East.

But is it enough to stop the Lakers?

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© Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA/Getty Images/SBNation

With the (Not) Battle of Los Angeles behind them, the Los Angeles Lakers have emerged — to the surprise of nobody — as the best team in the Western Conference. The dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis pretty much made it nigh impossible to be beaten by anybody. Even when teams showcased some merits of grit and fight like the Portland Trailblazers, Houston Nuggets, and Denver Nuggets, none just couldn’t beat the Lakers when it came down to it. The team was just too deep and too good.

And again, they have LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That’s like the ultimate cheat code in NBA 2K.

The Lakers are looking to obtain their next franchise NBA championship and cement their legacies as the most successful franchise in the league. That is an important there: legacy. The Lakers are only focused on their legacies more so than just simply winning another title. It applies to the entire organization and not just simply a group of people.

LeBron has nothing to prove at this point in his career. He has won three NBA titles. He has three Finals MVPs. He has been the league MVP four times. He’s an Olympian. He won a title in his home state Ohio with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has accomplished every single thing he set out to do when he first got drafted in the NBA in 2003. So why bother feeling like he needs to prove something if there’s nothing to prove?

You could say that’s the competitor in him.

That is just who LeBron is as a person. Even after achieving success he is always looking to top himself. He’s won two titles with his opponents in the Miami Heat. He won a title with the Cavaliers. Now he’s trying to see if he can bring home a championship to the Lakers for the first time since 2010 when the late great Kobe Bryant lead them to victory over a decade ago. James may be older and a step slower but he’s still every bit the great dominant athlete he has been known to be.

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© Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo/Yahoo Sports/NBA/Getty Images

As for his teammate, Davis has been chasing playoff success for years. He has only been to the postseason three times in his NBA career. It was twice with his former team the New Orleans Pelicans and now with the Lakers. He’s only left the first round once but only ended up meeting the godlike, prime Golden State Warriors in 2018 and his match went as well as you can expect (but hey at least he got ONE victory from that matchup).

The past is now behind him and he is ready to prove that he is one of the players in the league (if he hasn’t already). Davis has been the focal point on offense despite playing alongside LeBron James. James has served as the initiator, leading ball handler and playmaker while Davis is the number one scoring option. It’s worked wonder for the pair and the Lakers haven’t seen a duo this formidable since Kobe and Shaq in the late 90s and early 2000s. Davis now has a chance to win his first NBA title and carry a new legacy for himself as one of the premiere NBA talent.

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© Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images/Los Angeles Times/NBA

Head coach Frank Vogel is also ready to cement his legacy as one of the best coaches in the league. For years, he had to live with the fact that he almost beat the Miami Heat twice back in 2013 and again in 2014 when LeBron James was playing for them and Vogel coached the Indiana Pacers. In the end, he just couldn’t out coach Spoelstra and the “Miami Big Three.” It eventually led to his firing and somewhat humiliation by the organization. Vogel has struggled to find consistency as a head coach for the longest time. His once touted defense no longer seemed vital in today’s league. His tenure with the Orlando Magic was supposedly proof of that.

Now he’s back in the driving seat and ironically coaching the player that led to his ruin with the Pacers. All that is beneath them and the only path is forward. Vogel has done an exceptional job getting the Lakers prepared despite weird circumstances. He’s also made excellent of his rotation, empowering players like Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who would probably never see the court on any other team. He’s made sure to know when and how to use players of special skillsets like Dwight Howard and Dion Waiters. For all the talk of Vogel possibly no longer being a good coach, he is definitely proving his critics wrong. All that is left is the title.

If I had to make a prediction, it’ll be the Lakers in six games. While the Heat have been the surprise team in the league this series will be a test of matchups. Herro and Robinson are elite shooters that space the floor and Butler is every bit the skilled playmaker like LeBron. Adaebayo will likely have his hands full guarding Davis. So it will be interesting to see how both coaches utilize their rosters to their advantage. I suspect Vogel will come out on top considering he knows how Spoelstra likes to coach the zone defense. I mean they have faced each other in a Finals matchup three times now so he should be used to this. Heat won’t go down easy though. They will gave the Lakers a fight and this should be an entertaining series.

Gametime is tonight at 9PM. Fans should look forward to an exciting, unique NBA Finals match.

  • Apologies for not being on top of things. I’ve been WAY too busy lately and have been finding difficulty to write about every single NBA matchup that has taken place and I’ve seen them all but couldn’t get the chance to write about each one. To save time, I will give you my thoughts on the recent developments in the NBA through quick and “to the point” bulletpoints.
  • The Denver Nuggets definitely put up a fight against the Lakers but in the end Jamal Murray’s nagging injuries and the Lakers’ defensive bigs limiting Nikola Jokic pretty much killed whatever momentum that team had. However, Nuggets walked away with tremendous respect around the league. Murray and Jokic are rising All Stars. Grant may very well be one of the most versatile big men in the NBA (who definitely should get paid this offseason). Head coach Mike Malone has proven that he knows how to make adjustments and play to the strengths of his team. I’m looking forward to see how this team evolves next season.
  • The Western Conference is going to be a bloodbath next season (in a good way)! The conference is stacked with top tier teams like the Lakers, LA Clippers, and Nuggets along with competitive playoff teams like the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Portland Trailblazers. Plus you have rising teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Phoenix Suns with a talented young core. I just don’t know what the seeding is going to look like next year but it’s going to be nerve-wracking and exciting!
  • So Doc Rivers got canned by the Clippers. I won’t lie: I’m shocked but not surprised. Rivers got out coached by Malone. Plain and simple. He had a 3–1 lead and he and his team blew it. Instead of making the right adjustments when his original game plans fell through, he stubbornly tried to rely on them in hopes that it would lead to victory like it did with the Mavericks (I mean how many times did Jokic have to score over Montrezl Harrell before Rivers realized putting Harrell on Jokic is a bad idea). Rivers is a good coach and he definitely can get a team to the playoffs. I won’t be surprised if he ends up coaching a team like the Houston Rockets or Philadelphia 76ers. However, I’m not so sure he’s the guy that can get a team to the Finals anymore. He has a particular way of doing things and it may not be enough against this heavy offense league in the NBA. We’ll see what happens though.
  • The Boston Celtics have the two best wing players in the NBA in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They have a solid leading point guard in Kemba Walker. Marcus Smart is an elite defensive combo guard that can guard all five positions and score effectively when needed to. So why is it that the Celtics just can’t seem to get out of the Conference Finals? Is it the coach? Is it the players themselves? No, if I had to guess it’s because the Celtics have never really had a good enough bench. Sure, they have a great core but when guys like Brown, Tatum, and Walker head to the bench, the team is mostly meh. Head coach Brad Stevens can definitely bring out the talent in his players but ultimately General Manager and Team President Danny Ainge is going to have to do a lot more for this team this offseason. The draft is coming so expect him to make use of it. Plus, he will have to try to shell out more dough to bring quality bench depth to the team.

That’s it for now. See you folks at 9PM.

*additional content from ESPN, Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, Los Angeles Times

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Kofi Amankwaa Jr.

Written by

SportsRaid, InDemand, Thrillist, VIBE, hibu, 1&1 Internet, and Amplify, Inc. Penn State Alumnus. Insufferable Blerd. kantinka2@gmail.com for business inquiries

SportsRaid

Original reporting and curated sports data journalism. Actively looking for additional writers.

Kofi Amankwaa Jr.

Written by

SportsRaid, InDemand, Thrillist, VIBE, hibu, 1&1 Internet, and Amplify, Inc. Penn State Alumnus. Insufferable Blerd. kantinka2@gmail.com for business inquiries

SportsRaid

Original reporting and curated sports data journalism. Actively looking for additional writers.

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