Los Angeles Lakers vs Miami Heat
Line: Los Angeles -7
Pick: Heat +7
Ladies and gentlemen, we may just have a series.
Jimmy Butler put on a 2001 Iversonesque performance in game three and unlike AI in that series will welcome back an All-NBA level teammate the game after. With Bam Adebayo coming back, this series just got a heck of a lot more interesting.
For the first time in this post season, all of the pressure is on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Up 2-0 with a chance to go up 3-0 and essentially end it, LeBron James and company failed to deliver. They let a team full of injuries facing a seemingly insurmountable 0-2 hole up off the canvas.
You really can’t explain the difference mentally to being down 2-0, 3-0 and 2-1.
2-0 it feels like all the pressure in the world is on you and if you lose it your season is over. 3-0 your season is actually over but 2-1, things get interesting.
The one thing Lakers fans are all ignoring in their pursuit to prove everything is fine is that they flat our got beat in game three. It wasn’t a crazy shooting game from the Heat, it wasn’t some bizarrely cold game from the Lakers. No, down the stretch of that game they in fact had the lead and Butler and the Heat took it back.
Here’s the real elephant in the room though. The pressure tonight isn’t on LeBron, it’s on Anthony Davis.
LeBron has three championships, is a top three player ever (minimum) and has time and again proven we can just lock in a great bounce back performance for him tonight. Yeah Butler outplayed him in the fourth but guess what, does anyone actually think LeBron is going to let that happen again?
I for one don’t. Maybe it’s a blind spot, maybe it’s blind faith in something I’ve seen my whole life, I don’t know. All I know is if LeBron doesn’t have like 32 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists tonight I will be shocked. It’s just who he is.
Davis on the other hand is a whole other thing.
We’ve never seen Davis come through in this moment before. The Trailblazers and Rockets series were never any real threat, especially because they had no hope in guarding him. Similarly, Nuggets fans can tell you that series was closer than it seemed but that reality was, the Lakers have yet to face any real pressure in this playoffs.
Time and again, they’ve been allowed to dictate the game. For the first time since Houston though, their opponent got them out of their comfort zone and the team folded.
Why the pressure is on Davis tonight is twofold.
Firstly, this franchise didn’t unload their entire future for 30 points in January or quite honestly, 30 against the Nuggets. That organization has 16 rings for a reason, they only truly care about this one series. This isn’t New Orleans anymore where a first round playoff series is damn near banner worthy.
We need to see tonight the guy everyone sees Davis has the talent to be.
Furthermore, the pressure on him is amplified by the return of Bam Adebayo. The Heat finally have someone with a hope of guarding Davis, he needs to prove that not even Bam is enough.
Davis sets the tone for this team. Sure they get excited when LeBron gets an and one but, when it happens tonight, watch their bench when Davis finishes a lob or blocks a shot. For whatever reason, when he’s engaged it just resonates more with this team.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all in the game he looked like Shaq the entire team crashed the glass with reckless abandon while the game he was lost in foul trouble and textbook Davis enigmatic behaviour, the team could never really find its footing. LeBron carries the offence no doubt in my mind but Davis carries the defence and this is at its core, a defensive basketball team.
The way I see playing out is very similar to the Lakers and Nuggets game four.
Miami is going to start fast and hard, punch the Lakers right in the mouth and give them everything they can handle. Much like game three though, LA will find a way to make a comeback and keep it uncomfortably close heading into the fourth.
There, Davis and LeBron will assert themselves as the once and for all best duo in today’s game and bring it home for the Lakers.
If we’ve learned anything, Miami won’t back down ever. Especially with Bam coming back tonight, don’t be surprised to see an even added step of speed when Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson fly around screens just knowing they have their most valuable player back (yeah I said Bam is more valuable than Jimmy).
As much as I love this Miami team though, they’re just a guy short even with Bam. Tonight I think the better team in this series asserts itself and moves one step closer to a title.
I may be betting a lot on just LeBron and AD but so did the Lakers. That franchise is all about championships.
Tonight AD and LeBron have a chance to etch their names forever in the lore of basketball’s greatest franchise. Will they do it?