South Beach vs Venice Beach: NBA Finals Preview
The wait is over and the stage is set, the NBA Finals are finally here.
The Los Angeles Lakers (12-3) and LeBron James will square off against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat (12-4).
In a matchup of the two best teams in the bubble, LeBron James will face the team he won his first two championships with. The 1 seeded Lakers were clearly the best team in the Western Conference the entire season while the 5th seeded Heat shocked the NBA world by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2nd round en route to a finals appearance.
This is a battle of size vs speed, the Lakers have the upper hand in the size and length department and Miami has the speed and youth advantage. Miami is the lowest seeded team to make the Finals since the New York Knicks in 1999. The Heat are clearly the underdog in the series, but they are not to be taken advantage of. The Lakers have clearly been on a mission since the start of the playoffs and have not looked back since. But neither team is flawless and both have strengths and weaknesses. I'll dive into the advantages and disadvantages of both teams.
Miami has a roster full of young, scrappy players that are hungry. They are loaded with shooters that can get heat in spurts and a tough leader in Jimmy Butler. Tyler Herro has been the star of the playoffs and poses a huge threat on the perimeter with his shooting and ball handling.
Bam Adebayo has taken the lead on both the offensive and defensive ends and he matches up fairly well with Anthony Davis. Miami matches up equally with the Lakers in rebounding, so they have that to their advantage as well.
The Heat are the better shooting team and they have the coaching edge with Erik Spoelstra, who has led Miami to back to back titles in 2012 & 2013. Miami's zone defense has been effective in the playoffs and opposing teams have not been able to figure it out yet. The Heat will make the Lakers run and work on the defensive end. The Heat is known for getting hot in the 4th quarter and that's something to keep an eye out for if they find themselves trailing.
The Lakers have a huge advantage over the Miami Heat, the Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis and Miami doesn't.
LeBron has flipped the switch in the playoffs and he seems to elevate more in the Finals. James has a career 28.2PPG 10.0RPG and 7.7APG in the Finals with a 3-6 record. The Heat don't have a one on one matchup that can slow LeBron down and I expect LeBron to see a lot of double teams.
Anthony Davis has been on an absolute tear in the playoffs, and he looks comfortable taking the lead for the Lakers. The Lakers have size, rebounding, and shot blocking and can build a wall in the paint defensively. They are also loaded with playoff and championship experience, and have six players on the roster who have won titles. I expect the Lakers to use big lineups and use their size and agility to their advantage.
As good as the Miami Heat are they are missing one thing. Finals experience. Even though they have a championship winning coach in Spoelstra, Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder are the only players on the roster that have played in the NBA Finals, and that can be a problem against a veteran Lakers team.
Miami doesn't have the deepest bench and lack a backup center to matchup with the Lakers overwhelming depth in the frontcourt. The Heat have one burning question they need to answer: Who is going to stabilize Lebron James? Jimmy Butler is obviously going to take the bulk of the defensive duties on LeBron, but LeBron's size and strength should be overwhelming for Butler down the stretch.
While Bam Adebayo poses an interesting matchup for Anthony Davis, Bam is too small to guard AD inside and will have issues defending Davis' outside shooting abilities.
The Heat has enough offensively to make this series competitive, but it will come down to who wins the rebounding battle and if the Heat can slow down the Laker star power.
The Lakers tend to have trouble defending the perimeter, and that's because of a lack of help at the guard position. Heat guards Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro are playing their best basketball and the Lakers have to find a way to contain the hot shooting of Herro, Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder.
We all know that LeBron James and Anthony Davis are a force to be reckoned with, but it will come down to the other guys for the Lakers. All season long the Lakers have struggled with finding that 3rd option on offense and it's time for the next man up mentality. Kyle Kuzma was expected to be that option, but he has struggled to get engaged offensively and typically plays detached form the game. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been the 3rd leading scorer for the Lakers this postseason but they'll need more from guys like Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and Danny Green.
Another issue for the Lakers is their tendency to lose big leads in the 2nd half. They seem to get complacent and find themselves climbing out of holes in the 4th quarter. The Lakers need to do a better job of closing games out on both ends of the floor.
Another thing to look out for is the chess match between the two coaches, as it will be a game of adjustments and pace.
The three-point shooting is pretty even for both teams. The Lakers are shooting 35.5% while Miami is slightly better at 35.7%, but the Lakers have the edge in field goal percentage at 49.8% to Miami's 45.9%.
The numbers seem to indicate that both teams matchup even with each other, but at the end of the day you cant' bet against Lebron James in the NBA Finals. Lakers in 5