The time has come: the Jumper Brasil presents his prediction of the NBA final in the “bubble”: the favorite of the West, Los Angeles Lakers, faces the surprise of the East, Miami Heat.
Los angeles lakers (1º) X (5º) Miami Heat
Regular season clashes
The path at conferences
|Blazers (4-1)||1st round|
30/09: Heat vs. Lakers – 22h (broadcast on ESPN and Bandeirantes)
02/10: Heat vs. Lakers – 22h (broadcast on ESPN and Bandeirantes)
04/10: Lakers vs. Heat – 8:30 pm (broadcast on ESPN and Bandeirantes)
06/10: Lakers vs. Heat – 22h (broadcast on ESPN and Bandeirantes)
09/10: Heat vs. Lakers – 22h * (broadcast on ESPN and Bandeirantes)
11/10: Lakers vs. Heat – 20h30 * (broadcast on ESPN and Bandeirantes)
13/10: Heat vs. Lakers – 22h * (broadcast on ESPN and Bandeirantes)
Los Angeles Lakers (52-19 / 12-3)
The Lakers were the favorites for the title that we could rely on this season: a team that started the campaign with expectations of going far and, despite the characteristic fluctuations of such a long competition with a four-month stop in the middle of the matches, behaved with security and stability. His trajectory in the playoffs, in particular, was marked by a team that managed its undeniable favoritism very well. Between one end and the other, he was dominant in his series.
The amazing thing about the angelina journey in the playoffs is that dominance was established using different formations, moving in rotations and making specific adjustments to each opponent. It is likely that he did not need to show so much versatility to defeat his opponents so far – he would have had more work, certainly, but he could defeat them – but the truth is that the squad led by LeBron James showed more versatility than previously thought.
Frank Vogel used JaVale McGee (Blazers), Dwight Howard (Nuggets) and Markieff Morris (Rockets) as partners of star Anthony Davis throughout the playoff, adapting to different situations – the super small ball of Houston, the game well focused on the owners of Portland, the mark of Nikola Jokic against Denver. The team managed to integrate veteran Rajon Rondo without problems in the progress of the playoffs. The impression is that the cast has “grown” in recent weeks.
It is true that, against Blazers and Rockets, they got a little fright in the first match. The Nuggets categorically won game 3 of the Western finals. But in retrospect, there is a feeling that the Lakers have improved at every stage and have never really been threatened.
Miami Heat (44-29 / 12-3)
The Heat that played in the “bubble” is very different from the team we saw before the NBA shutdown. This is a team that has changed, for the better, in terms of starting quintet and rotation – Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala arrived, Goran Dragic became the absolute starter, Kendrick Nunn and Meyers Leonard barely make it onto the court. That version from the beginning of the season was enough to be a positive surprise of the season. The Orlando version is a contender overwhelming.
So overwhelming was it that Miami achieved significant playoff victories in series that, by retrospect, should have been more difficult. Swept a very disciplined Pacers who had the fourth best campaign in the East. “Destroyed” the owner of the season’s best record and MVP team of the season, Bucks, in five games. He showed more problems to overcome the Celtics in the East Finals, but he showed (much) more organization and decision-making power than his opponent.
The Heat did not mold itself to the opponents, exhibiting the versatility given its cast, on the way to the decision as did the Lakers. Your cast does not really need to give this show: it is almost unanimous that the cast assembled by Pat Riley is one of the most complete in the NBA. It is a remarkable combination of talented youngsters and proven veterans, players who play with and without the ball in their hands, versatile defenders and offensive specialists.
A drastic change took place, however, to change the level of Erik Spoelstra’s men: Dragic’s entry in Nunn’s place brought a game maker in pick-and-roll who became the team’s best player and possibly lives the most brilliant moment of his career. He broke all the defenses he found so far with impeccable decision making.
Analysis of the confrontation
The first natural step for the Lakers fans to feel confident in this final would be to look back on the regular season: the team won the two duels between the finalists in the qualifying round. But the truth is that today, this means very little as a forecast parameter: the two matches took place almost a year ago and the Heat has undergone many changes. To give you an idea, two members of that team barely enter the court in these playoffs.
This finalist is another Miami in relation to that of the regular season – which, in fact, has interesting resources to test the angels like no one has yet done in the playoffs. First of all, this is the most physical team that the Lakers have ever faced in the playoffs. The team led by Frank Vogel has run over his opponents with an aggressive and combative stance. You should find, here, a tougher, more resistant opponent that will tire you more in this approach.
Keeping LeBron James out of the lane in particular is the key to the Heat’s defense success. The Lakers are the team that scores more in the restricted area in the postseason and the ace is responsible for almost half of these points. Luckily, Heat has a group of enough physical defenders to try to fight the veteran’s “breaker” style: Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. Bam Adebayo, moreover, is one of the most versatile scorers in the league and can face exchanges against LeBron. That doesn’t mean success, but at least it gives you options.
It is true that the angelinos will try to attack Miami’s weakest markers in exchanges, such as Duncan Robinson and Goran Dragic, but, under normal conditions, they are an ideal opponent to “hide” these athletes. After all, the champion of the West is basically made up of LeBron, Anthony Davis, a more “heavy” center (optional) and kickers – who, as a rule, are not versatile strikers. The Los Angeles crowd has already had too much evidence of what happens when Danny Green needs to hit the ball, right?
The logic is not so complicated: Robinson, at first, will have a much easier life to stay on the court by scoring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope positioned on the three-point line than a Jaylen Brown, for example, who has more offensive resources . The Lakers are willing to change their game plan and try to pick-and-rolls less orthodox (LeBron-Pope, say) just to exploit these athletes?
And the most important of Miami’s weapons, probably, is the zone defense. This is an asset that everyone already knows is under the sleeve of Erik Spoelstra, but it can be more efficient against Los Angeles for the novelty factor, since the angelinos dealt very little with this type of marking in the “bubble”. In addition, this allows Adebayo to be closer to the basket and to act as the main rim protector for LeBron infiltrations.
Gradually, however, Heat’s great performance in the “bubble” also begins to show the “cracks” that can be used by the Lakers. The numbers of the starting quintet are not as good as they were a few months ago (Jae Crowder, in particular, has not been playing well and would not be surprised if he lost his title during the finals). The team only outperforms its opponents by 1.4 points for every 100 possession of the ball with its players on the court, a very modest number.
It must also be remembered that the Celtics found the ways to face the defense zone of the champion of the East throughout the conference finals and it was surprising how Spoelstra continued to cling to the system. Not many alternatives or a willingness to vary were shown.
Closing LeBron’s path to the basket and imposing a more physical game against Anthony Davis tends to make room for the pitches of Los Angeles supporters – and, if someone is going to beat him, better bet they are not even the rival stars. The problem is that, after a very slow start in the “bubble”, the angelino support cast has been very sharp offering spacing for the company’s players. You will say that they are not regular. Yes it’s true. But, if they have the right hand, it’s hard to imagine this team losing.
The Lakers also found options during the playoffs to keep Adebayo “busy” or to punish the use of a shorter player: from Markieff Morris’s spacing to the strength that Dwight Howard has been on rebounds, this team has been able to find great production from Davis partners . The zone defense may force them to act with more agile formations, but, in fact, having Davis as a pivot turns the California team into an even greater offensive power. Keeping Adebayo “planted” in the bottle, in this sense, can be a spell against the sorcerer.
Finally, one of the fundamental ways to stop the Heat – and this has been shown by the Celtics as well – is to slow Dragic. And the Lakers have good conditions to do so, having already done very well in marking stars like Damian Lillard, James Harden and Jamal Murray in the Western playoffs. It is not the work that a player does alone, but the team proved to be skilled and keen to double the mark on these athletes and get the ball out of their hands before they could create plays. Against Miami, that must be the way too – and certainly no one will mind leaving Crowder free, at the stage he is in.As already mentioned, the Heat is the best team in the “bubble”: there is no one who has shown better basketball, collectively, than Erik Spoelstra’s team. Now, is that enough to lift the title against an opponent that we see as a favorite from the start, dealing with this favoritism safely? In the end, this is enough to overcome a matchup complicated against a universally viewed rival with more pedigree champion?
The difference between Heat and Lakers can be much, but much smaller than some predictions imply when they cite a convinced favoritism for the Angelinos. I don’t think there is such a big difference, particularly. But I have to admit that, in a balanced series, having the two best players on the court becomes a huge advantage.
Recall what happened in the conference finals: Anthony Davis converting the decisive shot from Game 2 and, three games later, LeBron James dominating the last quarter against the Nuggets playing for his life are proof of what I am trying to say. Having the best players is what unbalances the balance in these situations. And the Lakers are the ones who have them in this series.
Hunch: Lakers in six games
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