Up 3-1 against the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers are one win away from their first championship in a decade.
What happens in Game 5 could impact the Finals MVP race, but who is the favourite right now?
Our NBA.com Staff discusses.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): As incredible as Jimmy Butler has been, it's between LeBron James and Anthony Davis entering Game 5.
Assuming the Lakers win, which one of them should be crowned Finals MVP?
I get that saying it's a toss-up might seem like a cop-out, but I really do think this could come down to which one of them plays better here on out.
Put it this way: If we were to score the Finals through four games as though it were a fight, it would be 2-2 between Davis and James. Davis was the Lakers' best player in Game 1 and Game 2, whereas James was quite clearly their best player in Game 3 and Game 4.
Now, Davis hurt his case a little with his performance in Game 3 - he scored 15 points and the Heat outscored the Lakers by 26 points in his 32 minutes on the court - but he made up for it with his performance in Game 4.
Not only did he knock down a clutch 3-pointer to end the Heat's hope of making a late push...
Which is your favorite LeBron reaction!?- NBA (@NBA) October 7, 2020
Game 5: Friday - 9pm/et, ABC pic.twitter.com/KWYTOm26U3
...he took on the assignment of guarding Butler following his historic 40-point triple-double in Game 3 and slowed him down.
Ultimately, both James and Davis have been incredible. James carries a bigger load offensively, leading the Lakers in scoring, rebounds and assists, but the Heat still haven't had an answer for Davis and he's been a monster defensively. This really could go either way.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): LeBron James is averaging 27.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists on 54.1 percent shooting from the field and 36.4 percent from 3, and it feels like he's having an average Finals run. That's the standard we hold him to, which is absurd.
LeBron continues to make the extraordinaire look ordinary. It wasn't until I looked up his stats that I realized he was enjoying another incredible postseason. The Lakers haven't needed the offensive explosion we've become accustomed to seeing from him in the playoffs with Anthony Davis there to carry some of the offensive burden, but that shouldn't prevent us from rewarding LeBron for his sustained excellence.
I'll admit if it wasn't for Davis' subpar Game 3 I would have said him, but that's how thin the margin is for these Finals MVP votes. LeBron's been consistently better throughout and deserves the honour again.
Juan Estévez (@JuanEstevez90): Even though he wasn't himself in Game 3, I'm convinced that Davis has been the Lakers' most important player in these Finals.
Offensively, LeBron has the advantage. It's close, but he has the edge. But when you factor in the other end of the court, I think the scales tip in Davis' favour. Game 4 was a very clear example of this, with Davis being the most dominant player on the court despite scoring "only" 22 points.
The statistics do not quite do Davis justice when it comes to how valuable he is defensively. His rebounds, blocks and steals tell some of the story, but they don't take into account how many actions he blows up simply by being in the right spot or how many shots he alters around the rim.
Davis' postseason has been extraordinary by all accounts, even coming up big in the clutch a number of times, and the Finals has been no exception.
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): Anthony Davis was out in front for the award after two games, but I've got to roll with LeBron James here.
Not discounting Davis' phenomenal play on both ends of the floor, as illustrated by his job on Jimmy Butler in Game 4, but when you take a step back, LeBron has been controlling every facet of the series to date.
As Carlan mentioned, the bar we set for LeBron is on another level and through four games, his numbers are more than worthy of Finals MVP. However, what puts him over the top for me is his impact on his teammates.
In addition to giving his team 27.8 points per game, the 35-year-old has created 94 points off of assists through four games, generating open look after open look, while effortlessly controlling the pace and tempo of each game.
When you add in the fact that his production has largely remained the same win or lose, that type of elite consistency is hard to ignore.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Anthony Davis.
Like my colleagues have mentioned, LeBron James has been more consistent and leads both teams in points and rebounds but I believe Davis has been the 'most valuable' player of the Finals. When he's got it going, the Lakers look in command and win.
First two games, he dominated by averaging 33.0 points and 11.5 rebounds, being the difference maker as the Heat simply had no answer for his size. In Game 4, he sealed the game with clutch plays on both ends. More importantly, it was the Lakers' adjustment to put him on Butler in Game 4 that seemed to bother the Heat's offense.
AD: Another Dagger pic.twitter.com/IiRnAee11w- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 7, 2020
AD's CLUTCH BLOCK TO SEAL THE @LAKERS GAME 4 WIN! #NBAFINALS pic.twitter.com/YfY56KxGIj- NBA (@NBA) October 7, 2020
James and AD have played nearly the same number of total minutes through the four games but the Lakers' net rating is +7.2 when AD is on the floor while with James on the floor, that number is at +3.3. The off-court net rating numbers are evident of the impact. When AD is off the floor, the Lakers' net rating is -2.7 while it sits at a huge +9.0 when James is off the floor.
By no means, I'm I implying that AD is a better player than James or anything along those lines but specifically, for this Finals series against the Heat, AD is 'more valuable'.
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