The NBA Finals matchup is set!
The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat are ready to face off after winning their respective conferences. It is the Lakers' first Finals appearance since 2010, whereas the Heat return to the Finals for the first time since 2014.
For more on what should be a thrilling title round, we have you covered below.
All times Eastern.
- Game 1: Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 9 p.m.
- Game 2: Friday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m.
- Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
- Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 9 p.m.
- Game 5: Friday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m.*
- Game 6: Sunday, Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.*
- Game 7: Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 9 p.m.*
Result: Lakers won 2-0.
Best game: Dec. 13, 2019 - Lakers 113, Heat 110
Best performance: Dec. 13, 2019 - Anthony Davis: 33 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 assist
The Heat and Lakers only faced off twice this season with Los Angeles winning both meetings.
The first meeting came all the way back on Nov. 6, 2019 - it was just the sixth game of Miami's season and eighth game of the Lakers' season. Los Angeles' defence was stifling, holding the Heat to just 80 points, their lowest scoring total of the entire season.
The Lakers forced Miami to shoot 35.0% from the field and 17.1% from beyond the arc. Jimmy Butler got his with 22 points, but it was a quiet game from Bam Adebayo who only had 11 points and nine rebounds. The Heat had no answer for LeBron James, who went for 25 points and six assists, while Anthony Davis was equally as unstoppable with a stuffed stat sheet of 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks.
Their second meeting was a much closer contest, coming on Dec. 13 2019. Miami had a chance to tie the game with a Butler 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was off the mark as Los Angeles came away with the season-series sweep.
💪 @AntDavis23 (33 PTS, 10 REB) & @KingJames (28 PTS, 9 REB, 12 AST) power the @Lakers 13th straight road win! #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/Y0TJgN1ha9- NBA (@NBA) December 14, 2019
Davis was even more dominant in this one, going off for 33 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Why is that significant? Because Heat All-Defence Second Team centre Adebayo is going to have to do a much better job of containing A.D. if his team is going to have a chance in The Finals. James was great in this win again, too, with a near-triple-double of 28 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
Key Storyline: Containing the Lakers duo
As just mentioned above, the Lakers duo had their way with the Heat in the regular season. The scary part... it was just the regular season.
Both James and Davis have taken their game to another level in the postseason, carrying the Lakers to this point. LeBron nearly averaged a 27-point triple-double in the Western Conference Finals, capped off by an all-time performance to close out the series with 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 5.
And you know King James is going to raise his game again in The Finals. For his career, LeBron has averaged 28.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game in the NBA Finals.
It will be up to Butler and the Heat's stout zone defence to try and keep James under wraps.
As for Davis, he was the catalyst to Los Angeles' offence the whole Conference Finals, averaging 31.2 points shooting 54.2% from the field for the series. His marquee playoff moment of his career (so far) came in Game 2 when he scored the final 10 points of the game for the Lakers, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that helped his team maintain control over the series.
Adebayo will certainly draw the tough matchup of trying to stop Davis, and though he didn't have much success in their regular-season meetings, he's looked like a different defender as of late in the postseason.
It's not rocket science: if the Heat are going to take their shot at the title, they'll have to contain these two superstars.
Players to Watch
If you haven't read enough about LeBron already in this preview, he's clearly the top player to watch. In his 10th NBA Finals, James has now participated in 13.5% of all NBA Finals in league history, per The Ringer's Roger Sherman. He's also aiming to become the first player in league history to win three Finals MVPs with three different franchises. You already know what's at stake for King James - the opportunity to grow his already incredible legacy in pursuit of becoming the greatest player of all-time.
Adebayo becomes Miami's most important player in trying to stop Davis. According to NBA stats' matchup data, Adebayo guarded Davis on 34.9 partial possessions in their two regular-season meetings, where A.D. scored 15 points shooting 6-for-14 (42.9%) from the field and 1-for-3 (33.3%) from beyond the arc with three assists.
Should the Heat elect to use that zone defence we've seen so often, Adebayo's importance is sustained in holding down the middle as the team's anchor. His defence is the key to the Heat winning this series.
Lakers shooters: Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma
One of the keys to breaking Miami's zone is consistently shooting the 3. That responsibility falls on more than just one player, which is why Green, Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma are all being highlighted.
Take a look at the shooting numbers from these three so far these playoffs.
|Player||3PM-3PA||3P%||Catch and Shoot 3P%|
If this trio is knocking down the 3-ball, it'll certainly open things up for James and Davis inside.
Herro is the ultimate X-Factor in this series, as his impact wasn't much felt in their regular-season matchups. He only averaged 7.0 points shooting 25.0% from the field and 18.2% from 3, but both of those meetings came very early in the rookie's career.
10 months removed from the last time he suited up against the Lakers, Herro played a huge role in the Heat's push to the NBA Finals, including a monster 37-point performance in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals to beat the Celtics. He adds another weapon that Los Angeles didn't have to worry about the first couple of times around.
Picks and Predictions
Kyle Irving: Lakers in six
Alex Novick: Heat in six
Kane Pitman: Lakers in seven
Gilbert McGregor: Lakers in six
Yash Matange: Heat in seven
Benyam Kidane: Lakers in six
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