On Sunday, October 11, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA finals, claiming their 17th NBA championship. This tied the team with the Boston Celtics for the most championship titles won in NBA history. Despite eventually losing after six games in the final round of playoffs, I believe that the Heat were the deserved winners of the NBA Finals with their persistence, fearlessness, and ability to punch above their weight.
Both the Lakers and Heat had a spectacular playoffs run leading up to the final series in which they faced each other head on. The Heat were the underdogs, not only in the finals, but throughout the playoffs. Being the fifth seed of the Eastern Conference, they were not favored to win. However, their team chemistry and determination to prove people wrong carried them further. They were always able to step up to their competition with minimal fear, giving them a fair chance against anybody, including the Lakers, the first seed of the Western Conference.
This season, the Heat created their own unique persona as a team that brought them unexpected success. Jimmy Butler played a crucial role in their success and served as a team leader on and off the court. In Game Three of the Finals, Butler became only the third player in Finals history to achieve a 40-point triple double. The 20-year-old rookie, Tyler Herro, thrived in the playoffs, creating a name for himself as the first rookie to score double digits in 20 consecutive playoff games. In Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals, Herro scored a team-high of 37 points against the Celtics, putting him at second behind Magic Johnson for the greatest number of points in a playoff game for a player 20 years old or younger.
In my opinion, the Celtics were the stronger team as they competed against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, but they didn’t seem to have their hearts in the game. In every fourth quarter, Miami was after every loose ball, contesting shots, grabbing rebounds, and undoubtedly showing themselves as the team that wanted to win more. Despite winning three of the seven games, it was clear that the Celtics lacked that heart and intensity that the Heat carried with them no matter who they faced.
The Lakers had an exceptional season with All-Stars Lebron James and Anthony Davis as the backbone of the team. The Lakers were favored to win from the start. Coupled with their first seed spot, their size, with 6’11’’ Anthony Davis, 7’0’’ Javale McGee, and even Lebron James himself coming in at 6’9’’, served as a formidable defensive force in the paint. The Lakers not only dominated the glass on both sides of the floor, but also had great shooting from the wings. Other exceptionally skilled players, including Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, made their mark throughout the season and especially in the 2020 playoffs.
The Heat faced several challenges early on. During Game One, the Heat lost Goran Dragić to an injured foot, Bam Adebayo due to a bad shoulder and Butler with a sprained ankle. The Lakers came through with a win in Game One, with James and Davis leading the team to victory. By Game Two, Butler had been cleared to play, while Dragić and Adebayo were still out due to injury. For the Heat, this meant that other players had to step up and rise to the occasion. With both teams driving towards the basket and draining contested threes, we saw that both teams had come to play. Despite Miami’s great efforts to claim this victory, the Lakers came out on top.
The Heat trailing behind the Lakers 2-0 was hopeful for the outcome of Game 3. Being a test of resilience for the Heat, Butler kept his spirits high and urged the team to play with confidence. With a 40-plus point triple double and active defense, he led Miami to an inspiring 11-point victory. With Adebayo cleared from his shoulder injury, the Heat started the first half of Game Four with momentum. However, despite the Heat’s efforts, the Lakers yet again claimed victory, with the final score ending up with only a six point margin. With Miami on the brink of elimination, Butler’s performance was electric in Game Five, but it was matched with James’ intensity. Although James was the leading scorer of Game Five, the Heat came out on top with a three point victory, forcing a Game Six.
The Heat took every punch from the Lakers, and yet still refused to surrender. The following game provided much needed relief for the Lakers. Every pass and shot Miami made was contested. With nearly a 40-point lead on behalf of the Lakers, the Heat tried their hardest to cut into the lead, but it was never enough to claim the win. When the fourth quarter came to an end, the Lakers were named the 2020 NBA Champions.
Despite Miami’s total efforts and intensity, they could not pull through. The Lakers ended up being the team with more talent. From how I see it, the Heat deserved to win. Although they were visibly the weaker team, they held their ground and had unmatchable tenacity throughout the whole playoff series. A team with the duo of Lebron James and Anthony Davis is almost always in favor of winning, yet the Heat did not back down. The Heat made their best effort to make it all the way, however the immense strength and height of the Lakers intervened.
And for the Lakers, every day spent isolated from their families and the outside world during the playoff finals, all the effort, and all the practices, was finally worth it.