NBA Finals Preview: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat, Game 1

The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers face off in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Here are three things to watch for during the series.

Heat Jimmy Butler vs Laker LeBron James
Dec 13, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) battle for the ball in the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers face off in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night. The Heat were able to win the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics in six games while the Lakers cruised through the Western Conference Finals in five games against the Denver Nuggets.

Led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers look for the first NBA Finals victory since they went back-to-back in 2009 and 2010 with Kobe Bryant leading the charger. On the other side, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo look to win the Heat’s first NBA Finals without James since the 2006 season.

Here are three things to keep an eye on during Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Can the Miami Heat slow down Anthony Davis?

Anthony Davis has been a problem for opposing teams in this year’s NBA Playoffs. Through 15 games, Davis is averaging 28.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 blocks while shooting at a 57% clip from the field.

One of the only ways that Miami can slow down Davis is through Bam Adebayo. He is the backbone of the Heat’s defense and was phenomenal in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat won’t be able to shut Davis down completely, but since he is the backbone of the Lakers’ offense, he will be the main guy to stop.

It is clear that Adebayo is up for the challenge. Perhaps, Miami could try to double team Davis whenever he gets the ball instead of putting up a wall against James. Either way, Adebayo needs to play the greasiest games of his young career thus far for the Miami Heat to have a chance.

The Lakers’ role players need to play great

It is known that James and Davis will perform every game for the Los Angeles Lakers. The important thing for the Lakers is whether their role players can show up and perform. Most nights, there is not a third guy that you can point to. Someone always steps up and plays above his level.

Two players who are the most crucial to Los Angeles’ success outside of James and Davis are Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma. Green is a lethal weapon from deep and has a track record of showing up in the NBA Finals against the Heat. Kuzma, in his first NBA Finals, needs to be productive on both ends of the floor to give the Lakers their best chance of winning.

Someone on the Lakers needs to step up and be that third guy for the duration of the series. If they can have a consistent third player, it will be very hard for Miami on defense. The Heat will do everything they can to stop Davis and James. It’s up to the other guys to show up and play.

How do the Heat defend the Lakers?

There are many ways the Heat can slow down the Lakers. They can start off with building a wall against James and try their best to take him out of the game. If they think Davis is the bigger issue, double teaming him every time he touches the ball and converging on James while he drives is also not a bad idea.

Maybe this is the series where Miami’s zone defense will be most used. The team needs to keep the ball out of the paint and force the Lakers to shoot threes. The issue with this would be if the Lakers put Davis in the middle of the zone. If they do this, it could be a disaster.

The Heat can throw bodies at James. Jimmy Butler, Andre Igoudala and Jae Crowder should all get their time with James — potentially at the same time. The Lakers won’t win the NBA Finals because of James. They will win it because of Davis. Miami needs to make a decision on who it tries to slow down. We know Erik Spoelstra has a plan.

Schedule and prediction

Game 1: Wednesday, September 30th, 2020, 9:00 pm EST (ESPN/ABC)

Game 2: Friday, October 2nd, 2020, 9:00 pm EST (EPSN/ABC)

Game 3: Sunday, October 4th, 2020, 7:30 pm EST (ESPN/ABC)

Game 4: Tuesday, October 6th, 2020, 9:00 pm EST (ESPN/ABC)

Game 5*: Friday, October 9th, 2020, 9:00 pm EST (ESPN/ABC)

Game 6*: Sunday, October 11th, 2020, 9:00 pm EST (ESPN/ABC)

Game 7*: Tuesday, October 13th, 2020, 9:00 pm EST (ESPN/ABC)

(* if necessary)

Coverage of Wednesday night’s Heat and Lakers game starts at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN.

Prediction: Heat in 7