Miami Heat vs Los Angeles Lakers
Line: Los Angeles -4.5
Pick: Heat +4.5
This series will answer one of the great questions in NBA circles once and for all: does it matter more if you have great depth or great star power?
These teams are so aggressively on each end of the spectrum that it makes this like a science experiment for NBA junkies everywhere.
The Lakers of course have two first team All-NBA guys in LeBron and Anthony Davis. Outside of the Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant duo who have an argument, they are far and away the most talented teammates since Shaq and Kobe. Other than those two though, the cliff to players three to 10 is quite honestly bigger than any I’ve ever seen before.
I really can’t think of a team ever that more heavily relies on two guys alone than this Lakers team.
Meanwhile in Miami, their one to eight is as good as it gets and that doesn’t include Kelly Olynyk who’s a really good role player and Kendrick Nunn who made first team All-Rookie this season. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler are obviously special but don’t forget about the key role players like Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala who would all start and play major minutes for their opponent in this series.
This may sound crazy but the way Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma have played this season, there’s a strong case the Heat have the third through 10th best player in this series. The Lakers haven’t played anyone close to as deep as this Miami team (frankly because I’m not sure another one exists in the NBA).
Last series the Nuggets had guys like Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Torrey Craig playing major minutes and just hoping they’d get something out of them. The same can be said for Portland and Houston as well.
Part of why so many had the Clippers favoured of this team before they imploded is the depth and their perceived ability to never have a weak link on the floor. Well, we’re going to get to see this Lakers against a team like that. It just happens to be the Miami Heat and not the Clippers being the ones to fill the role.
When I look at this series, there’s obvious things both teams do that the other one won’t have an answer for.
For the Lakers the first is just how good LeBron and Davis are and the fact there really isn’t anyone in basketball, let alone on this Heat team that can shut them down. Sure they have a ton of guys who can make it tougher on them than anyone else they’ve faced so far but great offence will always beat great defence in the modern NBA.
Also on the Lakers side is their rebounding edge when they go big and, their ability to run and get easy buckets when they get stops. All three of those things will be extremely difficult for the Heat to deal with regardless of what Erik Spoelstra draws up.
That being said, Spoelstra certainly has some advantages on his side.
Firstly, the Lakers have no one who can guard Dragic, Herro or Robinson at all so expect those guys to get great looks running around off screens on and off ball all series long. Also, unless the Lakers go small and have Davis guard Bam, Bam has a massive advantage over the likes of Javale McGee and Dwight Howard every second they attempt to guard him.
The same can be said for Jimmy Butler. Unless LeBron commits to guarding him, Green or Caldwell-Pope on him is borderline insulting. Much like last series, the more Jimmy asserts himself and controls the pace, the more the Heat have a big time advantage. Especially when you look at the fact this Lakers team NEEDS to get out in transition.
Speaking of slowing down transition, one of the easiest ways to do that is with a zone. Hear me out. Zones inherently slow the game down because they cause you to over think at times and also to play with a level of patience a lot of players simply don’t have. So, if the Heat can keep this to a slow and meandering pace with their now famous zone, that has to favour them.
Your pick in this series really comes down to one thing: are you a star type of person or a team type of person.
If you didn’t read behind between the lines of that above section on the advantages each team has, here’s the dirty little secret of this series. Essentially every positive thing associated with the Lakers has to do directly with LeBron and Davis. Outside of them, it’s a whole lot of nothing.
For the Heat though, their quick and crafty guards that can all shoot are a matchup problem, Bam is a star at this point and so is Butler. They also have a zone that forces you to beat it with shot makers that through however many games the Lakers have shown they just don’t have.
Essentially, the Heat have a heck of a lot more going for them in this series. It’s just, do you think LeBron and Davis are so good and so much better that it won’t matter how good the Heat are as a collective unit?
To me, I think the Heat have something and frankly, I think they’re a bad matchup for the Lakers. If I could pick anyone in the NBA to guard Davis it would probably be Bam. In terms of guarding LeBron, Crowder, Butler and Iguodala will never back down from him no matter what happens.
This Heat team is full of a series of ass kickers who won’t take any BS from this Lakers team. I think that’s exactly what it’ll take to beat them. LA has had no real on court adversity all season. Howard, JR, Rondo, McGee and KCP are all famous front runners, let’s see how close that locker room is after they get punched in the mouth.
Miami is built to expose teams like this and I think they will in six hard fought games. Give me the Heat in six and give me them tonight and the 4.5 points (by the way it’s insanity that the Lakers were favoured by two full possessions over this team when the line opened).