LeBron James will look to secure the fourth championship of his NBA career

NBA: Lakers-Heat Set to Begin Fascinating Finals

Los Angeles Lakers vs Miami Heat

The NBA Finals matchup is all set. LeBron James will look to secure the fourth championship of his storied career as he leads the Los Angeles Lakers against his former team, the Miami Heat.

The Heat have defied the NBA 2020 betting odds in each of the last two rounds, beating the favoured Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics to emerge as the surprise Eastern Conference champions.

However, they will face their toughest test yet in the Lakers, who have needed just five games to win each of their first three playoff series.

Let’s take a closer look to see how these two teams match up heading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

 

Talking Points

Bam vs Brow big man battle

Most fans see LeBron James vs Jimmy Butler as the marquee matchup in this year’s Finals, which is understandable. However, the championship could come down to who comes out on top in the titanic big man battle between Bam Adebayo and “The Brow”, Anthony Davis.

The two are the brightest young big men in the league and were instrumental in their respective teams’ run to the Finals.

Adebayo averaged nearly 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Heat’s series win over the Celtics, including a sensational 32-point, 14-rebound performance in the clinching Game 6.

But Bam is also an elite defender who can guard just about anyone on the court. He more than held his own against reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Bucks series, which was key to Miami’s victory against the East’s No. 1 seed. There are few players in the league capable of slowing Anthony Davis down, and he’s one of them.

Speaking of Davis, he also had a terrific conference finals against the Nuggets, averaging a team-high 31 points on 55 per cent shooting.

Miami Heat will count on elite defender Bam Adebayo to help them get a win against Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals

Bam Adebayo in action for Miami Heat during third quarter of the Eastern Conference Finals match against Boston Celtics at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Although, he was somewhat limited later in the series after suffering an ankle injury in Game 4, which will be something to monitor moving forward. His rebounding, in particular, has fallen off in his last few games, which Adebayo and the Heat could exploit.

With so much inconsistency surrounding the Lakers’ supporting cast all season, Davis must play with aggressiveness on both ends of the court right from Game 1 for the Lakers to be successful.

 

LeBron locked in

Despite Davis’ undoubted brilliance, though, the Lakers are considered major favourites in the Finals because LeBron James is on their team.

At the age of 35, James is still playing like the undisputed best player in the world. He was excellent on both ends of the court against the Nuggets, and his performance in the series-clinching Game 5 — 38 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists — is among the best games he’s ever played.

James is highly motivated by the possibility of winning his fourth NBA championship, and it’s clear to see by the sense of urgency that he’s played with in these playoffs. The fact that he took on the challenge of defending Nuggets star Jamal Murray late in Game 5 speaks to his commitment to do whatever it takes for the Lakers to win.

Slowing down James will be crucial to the Heat’s chances of winning the series, and they have a number of players — Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, Adebayo — than they will try to throw at him.

The Heat also used the zone defence to throw off the Celtics’ prolific offence. They will no doubt try that tactic against the Lakers and force LeBron into jump shots, which is by far the weakest part of his game.

But James is arguably the smartest player in the league, and if there’s anyone who can find a solution to that Heat zone, it should be him.

 

History

The Lakers swept the two-game series against the Heat this season. After blowing them out 95-80 at home, they pulled off a 113-110 win at Miami back in December.

Davis got the better of Adebayo in both matchups as he averaged 29.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 3.0 blocks.

But the Heat are a markedly different team now that they were then. Aside from adding the likes of Crowder and Iguodala in a trade in February, rookie Tyler Herro has also made a number of NBA 2020 highlights in the bubble.

Moreover, keep in mind that Miami is a perfect 3-0 in Game 1’s, while the Lakers have been somewhat slow starters, losing two of their three series openers.

 

What are the odds?

In terms of the overall series, the SBOTOP odds surprisingly have the Lakers installed as heavy 1.22 favourites to win the NBA Finals, with the Heat at 3.94.

The Game 1 odds are somewhat closer, though. The Lakers are still favoured at 1.50 to take the series opener, while Miami are priced at 2.66. The Asian Handicap market also has the Lakers pegged as 4.50 to 5.50 point favourites in Game 1.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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