The career of LeBron James is truly coming full circle.
As he prepares himself and his Lakers for the NBA Finals, he is well aware of the challenge that is presented in front of him. He must defeat the Miami Heat, a team he had won back-to-back championships with, in order to conquer his fourth ring.
Although the Lakers might be the overwhelming favorite to win this series in the eyes of many, it will not be a cakewalk, as Miami has proven time and time again that they do not care if they’re viewed as inferior to another team. They were the fifth seed in the East and are coming off of two series that many expected them not to win.
There is no qualitative way one can prove that the Heat are the better team. It’s just that simple. The Lakers have been the better offensive and defensive team during the regular season and playoffs, and throughout the playoffs, they’ve played better competition when you combine the strength of Portland, Houston and Denver.
However, one can argue that this was a similar case heading into the Eastern Conference Finals between Miami and Boston. Boston had the team advantage in terms of qualitative evidence up to that point, but significantly fell off in the Conference Finals due to Miami’s ability to fluster them with a zone defense which led Boston to collapse in crunch time.
TWSN analyst Tom Seipp believes that this will be the formula to the Heat’s potential Finals victory.
When asked about who he believes would win the NBA Finals, he replied, “Heat in 7. If the Heat are able to play their zone effectively, forcing the Lakers to settle for outside shots, there’s not doubt in my mind that this series is going to be extremely competitive and the Heat will take the crown.”
Seipp also emphasized that the one-one-one matchup of Bam Adebayo and Anthony Davis will be a critical factor as to who wins this series. Throughout this playoffs, both have been so productive and impactful offensively and defensively.
That being said, Miami does have one key advantage in their favor which could prove to be a huge factor: their perimeter shooting. The Lakers have an outstanding interior defense with Howard, Davis, and McGee, but their perimeter defense isn’t on the same level. Even if they do play good perimeter defense, Miami’s variety of scoring at all three levels and their ball movement will give the defense nightmares.
If there are extra defenders on the perimeter, they can just move the ball and get an open shot or dish it to Jimmy and Bam on the inside for an easy two. The combination of Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson will need to be clicking on all cylinders in order for the Heat to have a chance.
Similarly for the Lakers, they need three of their rotation players, whether that’s a variation of Kuzma, Rondo or someone else or a different combination all together to score 30-40 points on above league average efficiency. LeBron and AD will get most of the defense’s attention.
So, now we have arrived to individually guarding LeBron James. What is going to be the answer to stopping LeBron James one-on-one?
The answer: you can’t.
The Heat will need to break apart from their zone at times and double LeBron when he’s cutting to the basket in order for him to force the pass to someone open on the wing. Jimmy Butler will likely be the initial matchup on LeBron James, and Bam Adebayo will be preoccupied with Anthony Davis. Either Jae Crowder or Andre Iguodala will have to take the initiative of being the help defender along with Jimmy Butler in those situations. If the supporting cast hits those open shots LeBron gets to them, the Heat must live with it.
The Heat must do whatever they can to prevent LeBron James and Anthony Davis from beating them. It is much easier said than done, but that quite frankly must be the plan of action and mindset the Heat should come into this series with.
One can be confident that Erik Spoelstra is well aware of this and knows what it takes to win against this Lakers team. He has coached LeBron before. He knows his strengths and weaknesses better than most. He has great schemes on both offense and defense.
It will be a great series, and one should expect some unexpected things to happen. That doesn’t mean that a prediction will go awry, it’s just that some things which one will see might seem shocking.
Prepare for it. This is about to be a classic.
Here are the picks from TWSN’s NBA Analysts:
- Pranav Sriraman: Lakers in 7
- Malik Wright: Lakers in 6
- Thomas Stapleton: Lakers in 6
- Christian De Block: Lakers in 6
- Tom Seipp: Heat in 7
- Will Locklin: Lakers in 6
- Aidan Maher: Lakers in 6
- Daniel Alameda: Lakers in 6
- Kevin Chin: Lakers in 5
- Evan Taylor: Lakers in 5
- Dorian Wright: Lakers in 5
If you have any thoughts on these predictions and the preview above, make sure to DM me on Instagram @sportsworlddebates and I will provide additional insight.