Editor Update: This article includes Game 1 updates.
The 2019-20 season has not been like any other in the 74-year history of the National Basketball Association. The season was almost canceled … twice. The strong relationship between the Players’ Association, the owners, and the league has proven to be proactive and well-oiled. Here we are a day away from the NBA Finals thanks to the strength and resilience of everyone involved.
The season not only had a shut down due to Covid-19, and players boycotting because they wanted to show support around social injustices. It also had an unexpected death to one of the league’s living legends. Kobe Bryant and his daughter were tragically killed, along with seven others, on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash. The NBA world united to celebrate his life. The Lakers’ organization, which Kobe played his entire career for, rallied to make sure he was honored each moment of this season. The Lakers are four wins away from winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy in memory of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
Make sure to check out our NBA sportsbook and place all your bets on the series before it gets underway Wednesday. You can find more betting analysis on the Lakers and Heat at our NBA Locker Room page as the series charges along.
Lakers vs Heat Preview – History
The Eastern Conference’s fifth seed Miami Heat are the only thing standing in the way of LeBron James and the Lakers winning a title. The Heat are the first five seed to make The Finals. The Heat have already knocked off the overall No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs. Miami loves the underdog role and is quoted as having a “dog” mentality every time it steps on the floor. The Heat proved this again as they outplayed the favored No. 3 seeded Celtics in a series they won in six games.
The last time the Lakers were in the Finals was in 2010 when Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to a championship over the Celtics. The Heat were last in a Finals in 2014 after LeBron led the franchise to four straight Finals. He proceeded to leave the following year to head back “home” to Cleveland. LeBron has been to The Finals a total of 10 times in the last 13 seasons, and has been to nine of the past 10 Finals. LeBron is entering this Finals as a member of his third team. He’ll play against the organization he won his first and second championship rings with in 2012 and ’13.
LeBron now has more NBA Finals appearances than all but three franchises 🤯 pic.twitter.com/N1C0nqfVcX
— ESPN (@espn) September 27, 2020
The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to tie the Boston Celtics with their 17th championship this year. The Miami Heat entered the league in 1988 as an expansion team and are looking to win their fourth title. This is the first time that the NBA Finals has teams that missed the playoffs the year before. It’s Hollywood vs South Beach in an exciting matchup.
The fans of these great organizations will not be in attendance as the season finishes inside the Orlando Bubble. All games will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fl.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) September 28, 2020
NBA Finals Schedule
Game 1, Sept. 30: Heat 98 at Lakers 116
Game 2, Oct. 2: Heat at Lakers | 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 3, Oct. 4: Lakers at Heat | 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 4, Oct. 6: Lakers at Heat | 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 5*, Oct. 9: Heat at Lakers | 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 6*, Oct. 11: Lakers at Heat | 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 7*, Oct. 13: Heat at Lakers | 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Head-to-Head Regular Season
The Heat and the Lakers played twice during the 2019-20 regular season. The Lakers won both by an average of nine points. Let’s take a closer look at these games. Both games were before the Heat traded for Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder.
Nov. 3 in L.A., Lakers, 95-80
The Lakers held the Heat to 80 points on a 35% field goal percentage. The Heat shot 6-35 (17.1%) from 3-point land. The Lakers outscored the Heat 54-44 in the paint. Anthony Davis had 26 points and 8 rebounds while James added 25 points. Jimmy Butler was the only Heat to break 20 points as he scored 22. The Lakers advanced to 7-1 on the season and the Heat fell to 6-3 after the game.
Dec. 13 in Miami, Lakers, 113-110
Over a month later the Lakers snapped an 11-game Heat home winning streak and increased their own road winning streak to 13 games. The Lakers dominated the glass, winning the rebounding battle 60-44. The game came down to a last-second 3-point shot by Butler over Davis that bounced off the rim.
Lakers’ Breakdown and Keys to Victory
The Lakers are a heavy favorite. A big part of them being favored is having the two best players. Let’s look at the keys for these two plus the rest of the Lakers to have success and win the series.
LeBron and the Lakers in the Paint
The Lakers are averaging 40.7 points in the restricted area this postseason, which is slightly less than their league-high, regular-season average of 44.1 points. Even so, the Lakers are averaging 7.5 more points in the restricted area than any other team in the playoffs. They are shooting a much higher percentage of their shots (34%) and field goal percentage (70.9%) in the restricted area compared to the rest of the teams in the postseason. Almost half (48%) of the team’s 610 points are because of LeBron’s ability to attack the paint and score (87 buckets) or assist (59) one of his teammates near the rim.
LeBron has dominated near the bucket in every postseason since his first appearance in 2006. Since 2006, LeBron has 3,372 points in the paint and the next player on the list, Tim Duncan has 1,622 points. James’ combination of power, speed, and court vision make him an impossible guard if he is attacking the bucket. A result of LeBron attacking is a whopping 69.5% of his playoff points that have come from the paint or the free-throw line. If LeBron wants to hoist his fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy he needs to be in attack mode and not settle for jumpers.
Lakers’ Leading Scorers By Zone pic.twitter.com/9zD5r5LcZy
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) September 19, 2020
Rajon Rondo’s Impact
Rondo missed the first five games of the postseason. Since coming back he has looked like Celtics’ Rondo that helped eliminate LeBron and win a title in 2008. The Lakers have a high 118.3 points per 100 possessions with Rondo on the floor and 112.4 without him. His passing has helped elevate his teammate by a huge margin compared to any other players. On his 102 assist opportunities during the playoffs, his teammates have an eFG% of 71.6%, which is much higher than the 16 other players with more than 100 such chances.
Rondo is also going to have to play some big defensive minutes. He will need to slow down Goran Dragic, who is the Heat’s leading scorer this postseason. This matchup will be key to both teams’ success. Rondo needs to get other scorers involved and take the playmaking load off of LeBron while making Dragic’s life hard on the other end of the floor. If he can do this, then he will be receiving his second ring.
Anthony Davis Being the Finals’ MVP
LeBron is going to nearly average a triple-double and do what he has done for so many years. If AD can outplay everyone on the court including LeBron then the Lakers have no reason to worry. Davis is shooting 52.5% eFG% in the playoffs, which is much higher than his regular-season average of 42.8%. He needs to keep this pace while being the best defensive player on the floor. It may be a bit tougher since the Heat are the best defensive team the Lakers will face this postseason. He will have a long-athletic Bam Adebayo guarding him, which is by far the best defender he has faced in the West. Even so, if AD wants to win his first ring he needs to be the Finals MVP.
Heat Breakdown and Keys to Victory
The Miami Heat have built their team around one of the toughest players in the league in Butler. They play with a chip on their shoulder and have one of the most balanced offensive attacks the NBA has seen. The Butler/Adebayo duo has been wildly successful in its first season. Coach Erik Spoelstra knows LeBron better than anyone and will definitely have his team ready for the challenge.
Bam Adebayo needs to outplay AD
Davis is a 4x All-NBA First Team selection and is widely considered a top-5 player in the league. Adebayo is a first-time All-Star in his third season with the Heat. In these playoffs he has elevated his game to another level. He needs to take it up another notch if he wants to win a championship this year. He has been the best player on the best team in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 23-year-old needs to outplay AD to give his team the edge in the Finals.
Adebayo can do this by attacking the rim and protecting it on the other end of the floor. He averaged 21.8 points in the conference finals and 20.5 of those points came in the paint or at the line. Adebayo needs to put pressure on AD and the other Laker’s bigs.
Editor Update: After leaving Game 1 with a shoulder strain—X-rays came back negative—Bam says he will be playing in Game 2.
Heat’s 3-Point Shooting
The Heat have the best catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter ever in Duncan Robinson. He is shooting a ridiculous 45.6% on over 500 attempts in the regular season and playoffs. But the problem for the Lakers is, it is not just Robinson the Lakers have to worry about from behind the arc.
This is how good Duncan Robinson is pic.twitter.com/YUtm1xPaMO
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) September 17, 2020
The Heat’s Zone
The Heat used the 2-3 zone against the Celtics to force them to take jumpers. Expect the same against a Lakers team that wants to get the ball to the rim more than anyone. The interesting thing to watch with the zone is if they can be successful against the Lakers’ two-big lineups. The Lakers scored 39 points on 35 possessions against the Heat’s zone in the regular season. The key to the zone is keeping Adebayo near the rim, which helps protect against the Lakers onslaught of the basket. If the Lakers struggle to adjust to the zone the Heat could steal some games early.
Boston better figure out Miami’s zone pic.twitter.com/KRSZwaLVi6
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) September 18, 2020
Recent Game Results
Lakers in the Playoffs (12-3)
- Round 1: Def. Portland Trail Blazers 4-1
- Round 2: Def. Houston Rockets 4-1
- Round 3: Def. Denver Nuggets 4-1
The Lakers have gotten better as the playoffs have gone on. They lost the first game of their first two series before winning four straight to close out the Blazers and Rockets. It took a Davis buzzer-beater in Game 2 and an epic 38-point performance from LeBron in Game 5 to close-out the Nuggets in five.
Heat in the Playoffs (12-3)
- Round 1: Def. Indiana Pacers 4-0
- Round 2: Def. Milwaukee Bucks 4-1
- Round 3: Def. Boston Celtics 4-2
The Heat dominated the Eastern Conference playoffs. After sweeping a beat-up Pacers team, the Heat took on the No. 1-seeded Bucks. They made short work of the opposing team that many thought would dominate the series. They then got the best of the Celtics in six.
Behind All-Star F Butler, the Heat have attacked teams on both ends of the floor. They have a solid supporting cast and bench that can score in a multitude of ways. Teams need to play solid team defense and hope the Heat are not hitting their shots because opponents cannot focus on stopping one guy.
The Heat have been underdogs in 10 of the last 11 games they played. The one game they were favored was because regular-season MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out of the game. The Heat will be receiving points in all the Finals games unless AD or LeBron is expected to miss a game.
NBA Championship Series Odds
Preseason Championship Odds
- Miami Heat: +6000
- Los Angeles Lakers: +450
The Heat was receiving +4000 odds to win the championship while play was happening in the bubble. The Heat would be the biggest underdog to win the championship if they could defeat the Lakers four times.
The Lakers have been favorites all season. The Lakers were quickly considered favorites since acquiring Davis to play alongside James. Even as favorites, it would still be a great feat for this team in this strange season.
Game 1 Betting Review
- Team: Point Spread | Moneyline | Total
- Heat: +4½ | +165 | 217½ -110o
- Lakers: -4½ | -190 | 217½ -110u
Editor Update: The Lakers easily covered the spread in Game 1, cooling off the Heat and winning by 18 points after being down by double digits in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Heat, both Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo had to leave the game with injuries. Their availability for Game 2 is unknown at this point, but Adebayo says he will be playing. Without those either of these two, however, the spread on the next game promises to be higher. Bettors who took the Under in Game 1 cashed in by just over one 3-pointer.
Making the Call: Lakers in 7
I have been riding the Heat all playoffs telling people they are going to make it to the Finals. This is because they are a really good team from top-to-bottom. They have long, strong defenders to throw at James. Adebayo is a great matchup to bang with AD. They have more depth and toughness than the Lakers as well. They are a much less experienced team, but Iguodala and Spoelstra have both won titles. And, don’t forget about one of the greatest champions of the NBA, Pat Riley.
I may be picking with my heart a bit here, as I am a die-hard LeBron fan. But, I do think LeBron is the difference in this series and makes his case even stronger as the Greatest Of All Time in the NBA. Buckle-up because this is going to be a wild ride!