If I had to guess, my average reader will watch somewhere between 0 and 10 minutes of the upcoming NBA Finals. I am here to bump that number up to AT LEAST 30. I think the real draw of the NBA is the power of personality on the court (that is also part of the beauty of basketball, I’ll save that for a different post). There is so much personality to unpack in this upcoming Finals, surely, I can illuminate for you at least one story, or person, that will make watching the series fun for you. Hannah and I are particularly invested in watching ONE player succeed (Duncan Robinson), and that is simply enough for us to be LOCKED in for 48 minutes of basketball. Let me pass this love on to you! Lakers vs Heat, here we go.
Let’s get right to it, Duncan Robinson. Hugely biased here, and I have no shame. Watching Duncan Robinson change the course of NBA games night in and night out has been one of the most delightful surprises of my sports viewing life. Duncan Robinson made the almost unheard of jump in his college playing days, transferring from D3 Williams College to my team of choice The University of Michigan. But his story doesn’t stop there, he’s gone from fringe college starter to an NBA STARTER! All because of his ability to do one thing extremely well, shoot. The defense knows it, the coaches knows it, even the zoom fans the TNT cameras constantly force on our eyes know it, and yet, Duncan finds ways to take and make an absurd amount of 3’s on the biggest stage in the brightest spots. When he hits that shot, and you see his sly little side grin, it somehow makes me feel, that I too, can achieve my loftiest of dreams. Finally a Heat player my wife likes that I too, can root for. Come on, it is impossible not to root for this guy.
Lebron’s Legacy. Old men, and by that I mean anyone over the age of 30 want to shake their fist at this dude and say how great he isn’t. I’m not sure I get it. I dislike Lebron just as much as the next guy. But at age 35 it is a marvel to see him absolutely dominate games both physically and now mentally as well. His killer instinct was on display in game 5 vs. the Nuggets as he reminded the whole world who the championship has to go through. The only thing stopping him and another checkmark on the GOAT resume is the 5 seeded Heat. I will say this, Lebron needs a signature moment in this series. It has been too easy for him so far. A game winner, a finals MVP, or maybe just another nasty chase down block will do. But Lakers in 5 seems like it would somehow discount his greatness.
If you don’t want to root for Lebron, for one reason or another, root for the Heat! The Heat are one of the 5 best organizations in basketball. They have a mastermind GM in Pat Riley, a former film-room tech turned basketball head coach in Erik Spoelstra, and a rag-tag group of players that clearly love to play together. The Heat play great team defense, great team offense, move the ball as good as any team this season, and have made the improbable run as a 5 seed to the NBA Finals. But they are a perfect example of the sum being greater than it’s parts, which makes them special to watch. However, it is truly a David vs. Goliath matchup here and unless you are a Philistine I see no reason to side with Goliath.
Speaking of Goliath… I kind of always imagine him looking a lot like Anthony Davis. This dude’s game is so smooth it is impossible not to like watching him play basketball, Laker or not. A seven-footer with point guard like ball skills are hard to find. He has a nice handle, soft touch, and can make and take just about any shot on the floor. He is the dude you create yourself as in 2k. Lebron can’t dominate a game for all 48 minutes like he used to but he absolutely does not have to because of this man. AD has been buried on the terrible Pelicans most of his professional career, here is his chance to become a household name, and prove he is the best player on the court whether Lebron is on it or not.
It isn’t sexy but the one thing we can count on this series is tremendous team defense. Lakers and Heat both play some of the best defense in the League (top 5 statistically). Anchored by great rim defenders in Bam Adebayo and Dwight Howard, both teams are capable of executing unique defensive strategies, locking down opponents star players, and contesting every shot. Bam will be tasked with slowing down Anthony Davis I suspect, and the Heat will use a combination of guys like Igoudala, Jimmy Butler, and Jae Crowder in an attempt to slow down Lebron.
While personally I love to watch Duncan Robinson on the Heat, I think more eyes will be looking towards breakout star Tyler Herro. Herro, a rookie out of Kentucky, exploded onto the scene during the semifinals against the Celtics scoring a jaw-dropping 37 points in game 4. I think we all knew Herro had game, but to do what he did in Game 4 was extra special and announced to the world that he is a star in the making. He even impressed Jimmy Butler which is admittedly pretty hard to do. Herro comes off the bench for the Heat and often brings instant offense, it will be all eyes on him when he checks in for his first NBA Finals game. I was enamored with this highlight video of Herro in Highschool, the man does not lack for confidence. You should all be very proud I didn’t once say “Herroics”.
I just found a video that says everything I love about Duncan and Herro.
That top comment is too good:
Duncan: I’ll have her home at 9, sir.
Herro: I’ll have her home at 9am, sir.
While the Heat’s roster was described by me as rag-tag, there is no doubt who the leader of this unit is: Jimmy Butler. Butler has bounced around from the Bulls, to the Timberwolves, to the Sixers, and now the Heat (that is a lot of movement for an All-Star). His time with the other franchises were considered tumultuous at best. Stories of him clashing with teammates, coaches, and management throughout. But look at where those franchises are at now, not here. Not in the NBA Finals, not even invited to the bubble, except for the Sixers (who are a dumpster fire). I think public perception has already flipped in favor for our man Jimmy Buckets, he’s a winner who just wants to do exactly that, win. I will be keeping a close eye on that mess of a facial hair option and even closer eye on how he leads his team emotionally.
Miami vs. Lebron will be a story every news outlet will try to hammer from now until the dying minutes of the final game. Lebron, a former member of the Heat earned his championship pedigree playing for them. When he left to return to Cleveland, many members of the Heat were outspoken in their disappointment with him leaving the franchise. Leaving a foul taste in both Lebron’s and Miami’s mouths. I think there isn’t much ACTUAL animosity here, but the real story might be this. Erik Spoelstra is the most well equipped coach to have a plan to slow Lebron down. If the Heat manage to win the series it will be a huge win for the Heat’s winning culture and conversely a pretty large knock on Lebron’s legacy.
NBA Finals in a bubble! This will be your first and hopefully last chance to watch an NBA Finals played at one location with fans on webcams and crowd noise piped in. It is pretty amazing to me that by the third time watching it, I don’t even notice. The lack of home court advantage is honestly refreshing, and getting to hear the cacophony of swear words being muted out is honestly a pleasure. Seriously the Heat must swear a lot, half of the broadcast is muted.
The Lakers will need a 3rd option to step up at least once in this series, and while they have the roster to do it, it seems to come from a different player every night. Playoff Rondo, Kuzma, Caruso, Dwight Howard, Danny Green, one of these guys will have a huge moment and play above their station this series. Obviously we all rooting for Caruso but it would be fun to see Dwight (ladies) or Rondo (Celtics fans) make an impact as well. Or if you are rooting for the Heat like myself, maybe it would be fun to watch them all collectively choke. Who will be the third wheel for the Lakers in this series?
My heart says Heat in 6 but my mind says Lakers in 6.
These are unprecedented times— time for unprecedented pick.
One last shocker for 2020 Heat in 6!