5. Miami Heat vs. 1. Los Angeles Lakers
This kind of reminds me of last years Finals. To an extent that one team wasn’t expected to get anywhere near this point and the other assumed to be the eventual champion. That doesn’t mean you should underestimate the Miami Heat and what they’ve accomplished. They swept Indiana, nearly swept Milwaukee and aside from two wins by Boston, they dominated in the conference finals. Jimmy Butler has not wowed in the stat department with barely over 20 points per game in the playoffs, but he is efficient (45% FG) and is averaging almost 6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. His defense has always been stout with a 1.9 steals per game average. The team has proven how balanced they are with Bam Adebayo being a force in the paint and playing outstanding defense no matter who he is guarding. Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn have become a talented young trio that gave the rest of the Eastern Conference fits in the playoffs. Goran Dragic has been a steady scorer and veteran presence for the backcourt.
This was the goal when the Lakers signed LeBron James two years ago and acquired Anthony Davis before this season. Anything short of winning the title will be a failure to them and everyone else. It’s been a relatively easy rode in the West for them. Each of their previous opponents (Portland, Houston and Denver), were defeated in 5 games. I assumed Denver’s depth would have given them more of a challenge, but they made it look easy in the conference finals. The Lakers front court depth is unmatched with James, Davis, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma. If the Lakers backcourt struggles on both ends then this could get interesting. Rajon Rondo, Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are solid wing defenders, but they will be tested with the amount of shooters Miami has and can utilize. But if LeBron and Anthony Davis are still being as dominant as they’ve been, this could be over in 5 games as well.
Players to Watch: F Jimmy Butler and F Anthony Davis
Who Wins: Lakers in 6 games