After all the crazy events that happened this season, two teams are left standing. They will battle it out in a seven-game series to determine who will raise the coveted Larry O’ Brien and forever be known as the champions of the most unique NBA season of all time.
The Miami Heat and the LA Lakers will go toe-to-toe in the NBA finals starting this Thursday, in a series that has plenty of compelling storylines.
The two teams are both having a very impressive run in this year’s playoffs.
The Lakers have been really dominant this post-season only losing thrice in the first three series they played in, sending the Portland Trailblazers, Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets out of the bubble.
The Heat however, were not expected to be this good this season, let along get so far in the playoffs. They swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round, then sent this year’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the heavy favorite Milwaukee Bucks back to the drawing board in five games. Their toughest challenge so far were Jayson Tatum and the Celtics, whom they beat in six.
The two teams only met each other in the regular season twice and in both times, Los Angeles got the better of Miami.
The most memorable game of the two was back in December, where the Lakers escaped the Heat in a tightly contested game.
Aside from their battles this season, the two teams and its casts have interesting storylines heading into this series.
Los Angeles Lakers
For the Lakers, this will be the first time that they’ll be competing in the Finals since 2010. The late great Kobe Bryant led that Lakers squad topple the Boston Celtics to give the franchise their 16th championship.
Coincidentally, 2010 was also the year that current point guard Rajon Rondo, last competed in the finals. And now, after a decade, in his return to the biggest stage in the league, he’s now wearing the purple and gold jersey.
Alongside him is another unlikely player. Dwight Howard has only reached the finals once in his career and that was back in 2009, where his Orlando Magic squad bowed down to the Lakers and the Mamba in five games.
This will also be the first time that Anthony Davis will be competing in the finals, which isn’t a bad return for a trade demand that sent him out of New Orleans.
As for LeBron James, this will be the first time that will be playing for Frank Vogel in the finals, the man that he had to go through multiple times during his days with the Heat, when Vogel was the orchestrator of the Pacers’ success in the playoffs.
During the time of “The Heatles”, when James was playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the man that led the trio from the sidelines was Miami’s head coach Erik Spoelstra. This will be the first time that Spoelstra and James will be meeting each other in the NBA Finals, eight years since they won their first title together.
The two head coaches of this series are no strangers to each other as well, as from 2012 to 2014, both coaches met each other in the playoffs. Spoelstra with the Heat, while Vogel was with the Pacers and in all three series, Spoelstra got the best of Vogel.
On the other end of the match-up, this is Miami’s first NBA Finals appearance since James left them in 2014. This is also their deepest run in the playoffs after the Heatles disbanded and left South Beach.
This is what Jimmy Butler has been fighting for all his life, and he’s doing a great job leading a mix of young guns and veteran players. The two-way star from Marquette University has finally found a squad that complements him, and he recognizes the monumental challenge they need to defeat in order to win four games.
Along with Butler is Andre Igoudala, who will be making his sixth consecutive finals appearance and had the best achievement in his career by slowing down James in the 2015 NBA Finals and earning the Finals MVP trophy.
The young guns Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson will be making their Finals debut as well on Thursday. The trio have been shining all season as potential future stars of the NBA.
Adebayo showing off his dominance in Game 6 against the Celtics.
Herro catching fire in Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Robinson making it rain in Game 2 of the first round against Indiana
This year’s Heat have been dubbed as one of the bigger underdogs in recent memory. Some fans and critics are even saying that they have the same energy and hunger as the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
The team, led by Chauncy Billups with Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace took down the super team Lakers that had three Hall of Famers and one future Hall of Famer in Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone.
In 2012, the Lakers and the Heat were expected to meet in the Finals as the Lakers were able to build a super team of Bryant, Steve Nash, Howard, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. However, injuries to Nash and Howard affected the Lakers.
A decade later, the two are finally set to go at it to determine who will be the 2020 NBA Champions.
This series is expected to become an all-time classic. The casts of players and coaches have such contrasting stories, and both teams have had recent championship runs. Additionally, the players playing at a high level and the differing play styles of both teams makes it a very intriguing match-up.
Can the wing trio of Butler, Iguodala and Jae Crowder be enough to contain King James? Can Adebayo match-up with Davis? Who’s the young gun that will have a bigger performance in the series? Herro or Kyle Kuzma? Who will come take Game 1? Heat or the Lakers?
All that will be answered this Thursday.