The Heat and Lakers matchup in the NBA Finals

The+Heat+and+Lakers+matchup+in+the+NBA+Finals

Jerry Humphrey III, theSCORE CO-Editor

After the longest NBA season in history, the NBA Finals is finally upon us and game one between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers is set to tip-off Wednesday, Sept. 30. 

The Lakers are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. LeBron James, the team’s selfless leader, is making his ninth NBA Finals appearance in ten years.

After acquiring Anthony Davis in the 2019 offseason, the Lakers dominated the Western Conference, finishing 52-19 and clinched the No.1 for the first time since 2010. 

Both James and Davis averaged over 25 points per game (ppg) throughout these playoffs and were dominate against every team they have faced. 

“We battled through a lot this year starting with the beginning of the season and we know the job’s not done,” Davis said during the Western Conference Finals trophy presentation.

The Lakers were the favorites to reach the finals coming into the bubble; however, their opposition put the entire Eastern Conference on notice.

All season, the Heat have been looked at as the up and coming team that has a bright future but can’t necessarily compete with the powerhouses of the conference (Raptors, Celtics and Bucks).

Team President Pat Riley took a different approach this season by trusting his core of players deemed as underdogs such as, rookie Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo 

“He didn’t assemble this team for us to play 82 games and go home,” Adebayo said. “That’s not the reason why he brought Jimmy here, that’s not the reason he drafted me, not the reason he got Andre and Jae, this is all about preparation on how we can win the championship.”

Miami’s road to the finals has been quite impressive coming in as the No. 5 seed. They’ve managed to win convincingly against every opponent, sweeping the Pacers in four games, the No.1 seeded Bucks in five and Celtics in six in the conference finals.

To stop the fast pace offense of the Heat, L.A.’s main focus is on the ball movement of Miami. They [the Heat] have recorded assists on 65.9% of their field goals, the second-highest rate in the playoffs.

Miami’s primary focus is containing the towers of LA, especially Anthony Davis. The team is second this postseason in second-chance points.

This is the first NBA Finals matchup where the two teams didn’t make the playoffs the season prior (both finished as the No.10 seed in their respective conference).

The Lakers are playing in their seventh finals in 20 years and are looking for title number 17, which would tie the Celtics for most all-time. The franchise has always been known for their winning culture that dates all the way back to the 1940s. 

Pat Riley is a part of L.A.‘a winning history, throughout the 70’s and 80’s, winning six championships with the organization as a player and coach.

Not only is this series personal for Riley, due to his history with the Lakers, but his relationship with LeBron James also plays apart on why this championship is important to him.

“Both of those guys, of course, they want to beat each other. Why wouldn’t they?” Dwyane Wade said when asked by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith about the possibility of LeBron James’ Lakers meeting Pat Riley’s Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.

James came to Miami in the summer of 2010 where he spent four seasons with the team, capturing two NBA MVP awards, two NBA Finals MVPs and two NBA titles. 

When James left the team and went back home to Cleveland in 2014 that did not sit well with Riley. He was hoping to build that dynasty like he did in L.A. and bring plenty more championships to South Beach. 

“I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like Dan Gilbert. I’m glad I didn’t do it.” Riley said to ESPN’s Wright Thompson.

In a classic battle of David and Goliath, the Heat look to upset one of the league’s best duos in James and Davis and look to win their fourth championship in franchise history. 

It’s just a shame that the Raucous L.A. and Miami fans won’t enjoy this star-studded battle at their respective arenas due to COVID-19.