The 2020 NBA Finals are here – finally – and it’s not a match-up that many were anticipating as the Miami Heat look to continue their Cinderella run against LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers.
Los Angeles came into the season as a clear favorite for the title. While their cross-town rivals, the Clippers, and the Milwaukee Bucks fell in the second round, the Lakers have taken care of business, winning each of their rounds in a gentleman’s sweep. King James’ ascension as the King of the West is almost complete.
The Heat expected to be a tough out in the Eastern Conference, but not many expected them to dominate the Bucks before beating the heavily favored Celtics at their own game. They’re the first team seeded that low to make the Finals since the 1999 New York Knicks (Yes, kids. Once upon a time, the Knicks were a good basketball team!).
Unsurprisingly, the Lakers will start this series as massive favorites. One does feel that those expectations sit comfortably with the Lakers, as equally as underdog status suits Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
Who wins? Here’s what Vendetta’s experts think.
Alex Chick III
Miami Heat in 7
In trying to determine who to pick for the NBA Finals of 2020, I realized that this became a question of choosing what I want and what I know. In this interesting year of life, and the NBA, there’s one true thing: literally, anything can happen. The Clippers were upset by the Nuggets in the second round. The underrated Heat beat the Bucks, and then that same Heat beat the Celtics.
The Lakers were one of the favorites to make the NBA Finals, but not for me. I had the Clippers in the NBA Finals, once they lost, I didn’t see any other team making the Finals out of the Western Conference than the Lakers. No offense to the Nuggets, they aren’t there, YET. So, now we have the Lakers and the Heat. Twitter and the experts have made it known that they whole-heartedly believe the Lakers will win the NBA Finals while being disrespectful to the Heat. I’ve even seen rumblings of “Lakers in 4” or “Lakers in 5”. The Heat have lost just as many games in the Eastern Conference as the Lakers did in the Western Conference; beating the Pacers in a Sweep, beating the Bucks, THE TEAM WITH THE BEST RECORD IN THE NBA, EVEN BETTER THAN THE LAKERS, 4-1 in the second round. Then, they beat my pick to make the Finals in the East, Boston, in 6 games.
This Heat team is criminally underrated. The Lakers and the media don’t respect the Heat as a Finals team. Other than LeBron and AD, I’m not confident in this Lakers team. Although LeBron and AD are the best duo we’ve seen in a while, this Lakers team is not that great. LeBron and AD are the best players in this series, but the next 5 or 6 best players in this series are Heat players. Throw in the fact that Coach Spoelstra is a helluva coach, why don’t the Heat have a chance?
All in all, I think this is a better series that what people are expecting; I’ve said the Lakers would win the last two series in 6 games, and they’ve done it in 5. Forget all that. I’m voting for what I want; give me the Heat in 7 games. Do I believe it? Nah. Do I want it? Hell yes.
Los Angeles Lakers in 6
While I was dead wrong about who I thought would make it to the finals, I don’t think there’s a person out there that had Miami coming out of the East. An incredible story for both this season and how a well run organization goes about rebuilding.
But good stories don’t always if ever, mean winning titles. The Lakers have dominated every team in the West, and it’s hard to pick against them. LeBron has stepped it up in the playoffs, and the team as a whole has started hitting the three-ball at a more consistent rate.
Bam can give Davis some trouble on both offense and defense, but there’s not one person on the Heat who can stop LeBron. The same could be said for the Heat’s matchup against Boston.
Their answer to all the Celtics’ weapons was to get into a zone and force Boston to take shots from difficult spots on the floor. Could that be enough to stop the Lakers? Despite being a big Butler fan, I don’t think they pull off the upset. Lakers in 6.
Boston Celtics in 4
Los Angeles Lakers in 6
It all comes down to this.
The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals. Ironic how LeBron will play his former team in his first Finals appearance as a Laker. However, this series has a significant impact on LeBron’s legacy. LeBron James will have won a championship and potentially a Finals MVP with three different teams with a win. At the same time, it will make James not just one but two franchises saviors. The Lakers haven’t sniffed a Finals since the late great Kobe Bryant won back-to-back titles. The fan base is used to rooting for contenders every year but has been relegated to rooting for a decade’s bottom-feeding team. James came to the Lakers to bring them back to glory. With Anthony Davis to rely on, it’s all there for the taking.
The Lakers defend exceptionally well, neutralizing a laundry list of superstars on their way to the Finals. LA’s role players will decide this series. You know what you’ll get from LeBron and AD. But what will you get from the bench?
Last offseason, the Miami Heat lost a star with Dwayne Wade retiring but gained a new star in Jimmy Butler. The Heat was seen as a middle of the pack team; winning the first-round series was seen as all they would give. Jimmy Buckets had other ideas.
Dismantling the Bucks and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in five games woke everyone up, and now no one is counting out this team. With young star power in Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Bam Adebayo, this team is the perfect Cinderella story. No one can say they are still underestimating the Heat, and the Lakers certainly are not.
I expect a great series with many down to the wire games; my pick is Lakers in six.
Los Angeles Lakers in 6
So often in basketball, the result comes down to a single question: who is the best player on the court? In this series, the answer is, as it has been for a decade, LeBron Raymone James.
However, the equation isn’t as cut and dry as it usually is where LeBron is involved. While the Lakers have the best player in the series – and probably the second-best in Anthony Davis – the Miami Heat conceivably have the next seven best players? Who is the Lakers third-best player? Is it Kyle Kuzma? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Playoff Rondo? Dwight freakin’ Howard??? (by the way, you can take your Caruso delusions elsewhere). Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder, and Andre Iguodala are all the better than any potential third Lakers tent pole.
That depth will be vital to Miami’s chances of pulling an upset. Adebayo is practically laboratory engineered to match it with Davis. Miami will send waves of capable defenders at James while mixing in some unsettling zones to try and test the Lakers collective outside shooting. If the Lakers can’t hit outside shots, can Miami slow down LeBron and AD enough to win the championship?
At the other end of the floor, Miami’s cadre of sharpshooters could stretch out a Lakers defense that has been excellently arranged by the underrated Frank Vogel. If Miami goes cold, though, the long rebounds those missed shots create will feed into the Lakers best source of offense: the fast break. If LA can get out and run, they’ll be able to take out the title relatively easily.
Should Miami hit shots and edge the rebounding contest, the Lakers might not have enough half-court firepower to overcome this resilient Heat outfit. That’s a substantial if, however.
Ultimately, we always circle back: LeBron is the best player in the series. Injuries aside (the Lakers have zero depth), he’ll make just enough difference to get the Lakers over the line.
(Although I really hope Alex is right)