A (Never) Balanced Final for Heat
The encounter between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals actually made me personally in a state of doubt. On paper, it can very well be seen that the Lakers are a very dominant team and have all the talent to win the NBA this season. On the other hand, the Heat is a team that meets the title of “Cinderella Story” , a team that should never be in the final, almost the same as last season’s Toronto Raptors.
The above thought came before the first game of the 2020 NBA Finals. Some people ask me about my choice to be champion. Questions like this I often ask them back with the question, “based on what?” Statistically and talented, once again the Lakers are powerful, in a heroic narrative, the Heat deserve to rise.
One thing that makes me believe the Lakers can get past the Heat with ease is the presence of Anthony Davis. Despite being listed as 6’10 ”tall, many believe this player with the acronym AD is actually up to 7 feet tall. During the regular season and playoffs AD has demonstrated his capacity as a bigman with a complete package of attack and defense capabilities.
I don’t see any comparable opponent for AD from the Heat or the Boston Celtics had they made it to the final. Matching opponents for AD are the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, which have the likes of Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam and Giannis Antetokounmpo. And the only player who matched AD’s ability to attack (with that posture) was Kevin Durant.
And sure enough, the first game was a showcase for AD. One on one with Bam Adebayo or other Heat players, AD has no trouble scoring points. Heat speculated with the zone defense system, trying to encircle him in a certain area, the AD can still points, can still provide feedback to his colleagues to make other threat situations. This player is the complete package. When trying to annoy him with fouls, AD was perfect with a shot accuracy ratio of 10/10.
The next question is , “Will this final end with a clean sweep of four games without reply? Especially with the potential absence of Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo in game 2 or even more? “
Looking at the existing statistical records, one interesting thing is that the difference in accuracy between the two teams is actually not that far away. The Lakers have a shot efficiency (eFG%) of 54 percent while the Heat are 49 percent. The Heat’s turnover percentage was even better than the Lakers’ at 8 percent to 12 percent. Unfortunately, only in this turnover factor the Heat took the lead over the Lakers. They lost badly on the offensive rebounds and free shots.
From here, actually the Heat’s best chance of winning the match is to maintain discipline in keeping the ball (low turnover), increase their accuracy, and reduce the difference in free shots. For offensive rebounds, with the presence of AD, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, it seems difficult for the Heat to excel. These players are very aggressive looking for rebounds and have much better athleticism than the Heat. So just let them get the rebound as long as it doesn’t end in second chance points. In the first game, the Lakers’ 9 offensive rebounds resulted in 16 points, a good efficiency and had to be reduced by the Heat.
Go back to the Heat’s way of winning the game. Decreased Heat accuracy (before the final eFG% Heat 54 percent) is not without cause. The Lakers killed nearly all of their attacking attempts with a hand-off centered on Baam. In the overall playoffs Baam is the player with the most passes in the Heat with 16.7 per cent of all team passes. However, for game 1 in the final, Baam only contributed 8.7 percent of the total Heat passes.
To make matters worse, the highest feeder for the Heat after Baam is Dragic. So, without both, the Heat will likely lose their ball even more flow. With this, the options are two, the Heat must either find a feeder or attacker that is better and more flowing, or change their attack pattern to be more one-on-one.
The first choice is the most relevant considering the Heat is a team that relies on movement without the ball and executes by catching and shooting . Throughout the playoffs, the Heat shot 50 percent occur without the shooter did chanted ball ( dribble ). Even more amazing, 50 percent of this experiment has an efficiency of 60 percent.
If you look at the potential for other ways of attacking one-on-one, I don’t see any Heat players who are good at this (apart from Dragic and Baam) apart from Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Kendrick Nunn. The team is really formed in a spirit of mutual cooperation, together building offense and there is no such thing as a “Hero Ball” like our idol, James Harden with the Houston Rockets.
On this basis, the Heat’s best way to win would be to defend their attacking mode but added a few surprises. The way to hand-off by relying on Duncan Robinson or Herro running is predictable enough. It’s good, when both of them run towards the ball, the other players also make cutting movements into the key area to damage the Lakers concentration. This is not quite visible in game 1. Robinson and Herro’s tripoin will be the key to the Heat’s victory. If the duo manage to find space and their best touch, the Heat will almost certainly win. However, to find the shooting space, once again the Heat players had to create a chaotic situation in the Lakers defense and both Robinson and Herro had to run full in the game later.
This potential is the best with the chance of Dragic and Baam’s absence. However, the chances of success still depend on the performance of the Lakers guard. Yes, if LeBron and AD continue to be adored throughout this playoff, I’d like to pay a little tribute to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope aka KCP. The player who used to fill the Shaqtin’a Fool more has finally shown his true potential.
During the playoffs, KCP managed to become the top scorer of the three teams (tied with Kyle Kuzma) with 10.1 points. However, what is striking about KCP is its tripoin accuracy which reaches 41 percent with an average of 5 tries per game. KCP is also quite tough in keeping (chasing) Herro or Robinson during the last 1 game.
Apart from KCP, other players who deserve credit are Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso. It was both of them who made the Lakers main line up calm during breaks on the bench. Rondo and Caruso became the two guardians with the best defensive ratings in the team during this playoff (108).
Seeing this series of facts, every time the Heat tried to open up a chance to steal a win, other facts and data about the Lakers that could close those opportunities also emerged. The Heat needed more than a miracle to win this final. Perhaps, it is more accurately called a miracle. As long as the Heat’s mentality remains on the mentality they have shown in the playoffs, chances are still there, even though it is very small. However, if that mentality wears off just a little, then the Lakers will easily take home the championship.