The 2020 NBA Finals will commence this Wednesday, September 30, 2020. This year’s matchup will feature the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. Following an offseason in which they traded for Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the odds-on favorites to win it all.
On the other side of the coin, the Miami Heat were not considered one of the teams that would come out of the Eastern Conference, but here we are. So, which of these teams will win take home the Larry O’Brien trophy? Let’s look at the tale of the tape before we attempt to answer this question.
First, we will look at the Miami Heat. The Heat finished with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference, but again, the chances of them having a deep postseason run weren’t all that great. Miami knocked off the Indiana Pacers in four straight games. In the conference semifinals, they would face to the team with the best record in the league – the Milwaukee Bucks.
They went on to beat the Bucks in five games, setting up a matchup with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. And in a series in which both teams were evenly matched across the board, the Heat emerged victorious, defeating the Celtics in six games. On the heels of their recent victory, the Heat returned to NBA Finals for the first time since 2014. Ironically, this was the last year that LeBron James was on the roster before he returned to Cleveland.
The Lakers Were Expected to Be Here, But Can They Finish the Job
From the Lakers’ standpoint, well again, they were expected to be here despite missing the playoffs in each of the last six seasons. After finishing with the best record in the Western Conference, the Lakers began the playoffs with a loss against the Portland Trail Blazers. However, order was quickly restored as Los Angeles went on to win the series in five games.
The Lakers were stunned again by the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the semifinals before closing out that series in five games. In the conference finals, the Lakers matched up against the Denver Nuggets. This was an opponent the Lakers could not afford to take for granted, given the fact that the Nuggets became the only team in NBA history to overcome a pair of 3-1 deficits in the same postseason.
While the Lakers managed to close out that series in five games, getting past the Nuggets was no easy task. With the series win over Denver, the Lakers are playing in the Finals for the first time since 2010, which is also the year of their last title run.
Key Questions for the 2020 NBA Finals
On the Miami side, one of the keys to their success during the postseason has to do with 3-point shooting. Before their series against Boston, the Heat had the second-best conversion rate from beyond the arc. Following that series, they fell to 11th in this category. As was evidenced in Game 5 of the ECF – a game in which the Heat shot 7-for-36 from deep – the long ball is a big part of what Miami likes to do from an offensive standpoint.
When they’re falling, it’s great but when that isn’t the case, they tend to struggle a bit. Another key question is the point guard position. Goran Dragic is the team’s leading scorer, but he struggled a bit when the Celtics opted to defend him with Marcus Smart at various stretches. Dragic is Miami’s leading scorer in the postseason so getting him going early and often will be critical.
Now from the Lakers’ side of things, the story is different. This roster is built around LeBron James (who is making his 10th Finals appearance) and Anthony Davis. James is second on the team in scoring (26.7 PPG) but leads the team in rebounds (10.3) and assists (8.9).
Meanwhile, AD leads the team in scoring (28.8 PPG) and blocks (1.2). Additionally, the Lakers are the third-highest scoring team in the playoffs and they have the best overall shooting percentage, converting nearly 50 percent of their shot attempts. One question for the Lakers is can Kyle Kuzma be a consistent third scoring option.
Another key area has to do with the frontcourt. Heat forward Bam Adebayo has been playing well in these playoffs. In fact, he finished with a stat line of 32 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists in the series finale against the Boston Celtics. Taking that into consideration, it will be interesting to see if Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee can find a way to limit his production somewhat.
Make no mistake, this is going to be a competitive series. One that will go at least six games. At the end of the day, though, the Lakers will come out on top, winning their 17th title in the process.