Yes, you read that correctly. After conquering the East with relative ease, the Heat will now face the prohibitive favorite, LeBron James and the Lakers. This is the first time the Heat have been in the Finals since James’ last year in Miami in 2014. Since then, LeBron has been in the Finals every year except for last season.
The Lakers have won their first three series of the postseason with 4-1 series wins against Portland, Houston and Denver. With this series preview we want to provide you with everything you need to know about the matchup.
Game 1: Wednesday (9/30), 9:00 PM — ABC
Game 2: Friday (10/2), 9:00 — ABC
Game 3: Sunday (10/4), 7:30 PM — ABC
Game 4: Tuesday, (10/6), 9:00 PM — ABC
*Game 5: Friday (10/9), 9:00 PM — ABC
*Game 6: Sunday (10/11), 7:30 PM — ABC
*Game 7: Tuesday (10/13), 9:00 PM — ABC
The Lakers are 2-0 against the Heat this season but both of those wins came in November and December of 2019 — well before the Heat’s midseason trade that landed Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala.
This is easy...we have two key matchups. Bam Adebayo vs Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler vs LeBron James.
It’s clear that the Heat will not require Bam or Jimmy to be the only ones to matchup on these guys and that it will be a team effort and also likely the zone defense. But what was Miami’s biggest advantage against the Boston Celtics at center with Bam Adebayo against Daniel Theis will no longer be an advantage. Anthony Davis is a premiere talent that will be a really tough guard for anyone on the Heat, let alone their All-Defensive center.
With LeBron, you know what you are against — an elite passer, elite scorer, elite athletic player that will never stop putting pressure on the defense. Butler will have to find a way to score other than bully ball if LeBron is guarding him.
Beyond these four players, how the rest of the roster performs will help determine this series.
Key Strategy for the Heat
The Lakers are a great team — but they are beatable. The Heat know this. They are not a flawless team. Their size will be a problem for Miami...but their shooting will determine their success against the Heat.
The strategy for Miami will be to pack the paint. That will be a combination of the 2-3 zone and the wall building tactic that was used against Giannis. When the Heat do this, they will force the Lakers to kick it out. Now, LeBron is a willing passer and he will do this. The question will become will Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope make them pay? The Heat will force those guys into semi-contested jumpers and we will see how they perform. They are not elite shooters according to the metrics. I don’t think a zone is sustainable against the Lakers. LeBron and AD will soon pick it apart and leave their bigs to rebound. But, it will work in stretches. The Heat will have to force the Lakers to beat them from the outside (where they were 23rd overall as team this year).
LeBron will find a way to the rim and Anthony Davis will make a lot of contested shots on you. You will have to live with that. They will get their own. The Heat cannot afford for the likes of Dwight Howard and Danny Green to beat them as role players.
For this series, the Heat’s X-Factor is going to be Tyler Herro. The 20-year-old showed what he is capable of in Game 4 against Boston with 37 points. He’s getting 32+ minutes a night and there isn’t anyone on the Lakers that is going to check him that can really bother him. Rajon Rondo will get the job a lot and he’s 34 years old.
Herro doesn’t have to score 37 points each night. But he needs to be aggressive. He needs to be looking for his offense every time he gets the ball. If the Heat want to beat the Lakers, they need to be scoring efficiently. Herro won’t be scared of the moment.
When Herro elevates himself to being a problem for L.A. then the Heat are in good shape.
There’s so much more to say
Some things that comes to mind is the two big things the Heat need to address against the Lakers. First, they cannot allow the Lakers to be a transition team — they are simply too lethal in the open court. Fast break points should not be allowed and that means the Heat will probably have to give up chasing offensive rebounds, they will always need to get back.
Second, the Heat will need to address the Lakers size. Here’s an idea of the opening matchups.
LeBron James — Jimmy Butler
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — Duncan Robinson
Rajon Rondo — Goran Dragic
Dwight Howard/Javale McGee — Bam Adebayo
Anthony Davis — Jae Crowder
The problem here is going to be the size of the Lakers. Crowder has a lot of strength to use against AD but the length will immediately be an issue. The Heat would rather use Bam as a help defender. But as soon as that happens, Howard/McGee are going to be on the offensive glass (especially against a zone). Rebounding will be an issue and if the Heat are allowing second chance points and paint points to this size, then it makes the Lakers more efficient.
Not good. That’s why you will likely see more zone out of this lineup. Will Kelly Olynyk get some run? He’s not a great rebounder but he could pull these guys out on defense and can at least bother them on the other end. Does Meyers Leonard resurface? Probably not. What about Derrick Jones Jr.? He could certainly find a role because of his length. Either way, the Heat need to answer this because these bigs won’t float out to the three like Brook Lopez did for the Bucks.
A few more notes...
The Lakers have their own issues in guarding the Heat. Chasing Duncan Robinson won’t be fun for them and I think that Dragic could have a unique advantage with his size in this matchup. The biggest thing will be what type of impact can Jimmy Butler have if LeBron is checking him?
The Heat have proved to be a good offensive team at most times. My biggest concern is how effective can Bam be with the size of the Lakers on him? He has struggled to score over the top of Myles Turner and Brook Lopez so far — although he finds new ways.
It’s going to be a great series.
Series Prediction from HHH Writers
Surya Fernandez: Heat in 7
Brandon DiPerno: Heat in 7
Matt Pineda: Lakers in 6
Diego Quezada: Heat in 7
Jake Lieberman: Heat in 7
Tristan Tucker: Lakers in 6
We hope you have enjoyed reading this preview of the Heat and Lakers series. Stay tuned with us for all the previews and recaps of each game.
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