And then there were two.
On Wednesday night, Sept. 30, the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers are shaping up to play the first game of the NBA Finals. This long-awaited championship series comes after the longest season in the NBA’s history, which began in October 2019.
Though the season was suspended on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it restarted in Orlando, Florida, four months later. Twenty-two teams traveled to the NBA Bubble, an isolation zone designed to protect players, coaches, and staff from the coronavirus by using video technology, enhanced testing, and enforcing strict rules/guidelines inside the Bubble. The $170 million investment allowed teams to finish the season; however, a live audience was not present at any of the games due to health protocols.
Between mid-August and late September, the Lakers defeated several western conference teams, including the Portland Trailblazers, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets 4-1. The team, led by Lebron James, is making its 32nd Finals appearance. In his last 15 playoff games, James averaged 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. James’ co-star, former New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, who was traded to the Lakers in June 2019, averaged 28.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists during the 2020 NBA playoffs.
On the eastern side of the conference, the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 4-0, the Milwaukee Bucks 4-1, and the Boston Celtics 4-2, securing their spot in the Finals. They were led by Jimmy Butler, a small forward/shooting guard who averaged 20.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists during the playoffs season. This will be the Heat’s sixth Finals appearance.
The Miami Heat is considered the underdog in this series. Initially the No. 5 seed (preliminary ranking), they are the lowest seed to head to the championship series since 1982. Playing against a team led by James is no easy task. From 2011-2018, James has led his teams to the Finals for eight consecutive years. Furthermore, James is the only player in NBA history to record 10 triple-doubles in the NBA Finals, five of which came from the 2017 NBA Finals series alone.
However, the leadership and talent brought to the table by the young line-up should not be underestimated. The Miami Heat is full of younger players who are coming in with confidence and swagger. Tyler Herro, who recently scored his all-time high of 37 points against the Celtics, and second-year players Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson, are preparing to face intense competition in the championship games. Herro was drafted as the No. 13 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and his rookie talent helped take the Heat to the championships.
Currently, small forward Andre Iguodala is the only player on the team to have been to a championship series. Iguodala was named MVP in the 2014-2015 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors, and critics now say that he may be the biggest X factor for the Heat.
This championship has great significance for the Lakers and their fans due to the death of former Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant in late January. He and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, along with seven others, died in a helicopter crash in January. His death impacted the entire NBA and its fans around the world. During the restart, James stated that the Lakers team would honor Kobe and his late daughter, Gianna, by wearing the numbers 24, 8, and 2 on their jerseys.
With competition high and pressure on both teams, this series will be an interesting one to watch. Both teams have a lot on the line, and both teams are ready to bring home the trophy.
The first game of the NBA Finals is on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.
Through Teen Lenses: What are your predictions for the NBA Finals? How was this season different from the rest?
“Lakers in 6. LeBron and Anthony Davis, as a duo, are going to outplay the Heat’s defense and clutch the series. And yeah, this season was weird because of the coronavirus, and so throughout the entire season, no one really had a ‘home-court advantage.’ So, for this series, it really could be anyone’s game.” Cruz Coy, 15, Sophomore at Chantilly High School, Fairfax, VA
“I think the Lakers will win the NBA Finals in 6 games. I think that Heat is going to continue to fight because that’s what they do best, but in the end, Lebron James and the Lakers are going to end up winning. Also, Lebron wants to and is going to win this series for Kobe Bryant. On the other hand, the Miami Heat have definitely been overlooked this entire season. They went to the playoffs as No. 5 seed, and now, they’re going to the NBA finals (and they’re the lowest seed to make the NBA finals since 1982), which is crazy! Also, I feel like the Lakers don’t have as much depth as a team like the Heat, but they have James and Davis, and that’s enough for them to win the series. Lastly, this season is definitely unique, not only because of coronavirus, but also because many teams like the Celtics, Clippers, Nuggets, and Raptors all had a run to win the finals, compared to the last couple years that had the Warriors going to the finals every year.” Ethan Gabro, 15, Sophomore at Chantilly High School, Centreville, VA