What are you all interested in after reaching the finals tonight? What do you find as the biggest key in all of this?
Dubin (Jared Dubin, FiveThirtyHeight contributor): I’m a huge idiot, so I’m most interested in seeing how teams align themselves defensively. Does Bam Adebayo start on Anthony Davis, or do they try to hide him a bit? Is Jay Crowder Guard Davis or LeBron James? And how the Lakers deploy LeBron, Danny Green and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope against Groin Dragic, Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson / Tyler Harrow. I can’t imagine LA chasing Robinson all night or wanting to work with as many ball-screens as a dragic, so I think he’ll actually spend a lot of time on Jimmy.
chris.herring: Matches and Xs and Os are attractive in this series, aren’t they? And even the stuff we will see in the beginning will probably only be for starting.
dre.waters (Andrés Waters, Fivewhite Contribution): In terms of matches, I’m interested to see how Heat tries to slow down LeBron. They were brought in for such a series especially for guys like Crowder and Andre Igodala… so how would they use them defensively?
I imagine that both would spend most of their time protecting Lebron.
Dubin: A major swing in this series will be whether the Heat decide to use LeBron or Crowder on AD. Davis tries to do better against the big guys, so it might make some sense to keep Crowder on him, but the Heat might not even want Jimmy to spend the whole night working with LeBron.
chris.herring: Not that it has an immediate tie-in, but remember that clip of Lebron at the free-throw line reflects his disappointment when he saw Kavi Leonard coming back into the game to protect him? For your point, however, it is a very tiring task to defend someone for an entire game of LeBron or Butler’s caliber. Expect to see different people with those responsibilities during the night.
One thing I am doing strangely here is how aggressive rebellion – anything that has been unemployed in recent years – can matter in this series. The Lakers often play two traditional bigs at a time, and the Heat simply lock their butts often. The zone defense Miami game becomes slightly more risky for that reason.
Dubin: The Celtics held the offensive board on about 30 percent of their previous series, far more than the Heat’s previous two playoff opponents. The fact that Miami played much of the field certainly contributed to it, and if they go into heavy territory against the Lakers, they might invite some trouble there.
That said, the whole point of the field is to cut access to the paint, and this may be the Heat’s best chance to win the series. If they can turn it into a 3-point shooting competition, I think it’s really good for them.
chris.herring: Very good.
dre.waters: On the other hand, however, if Miami counterattacks the Lakers on the offensive end, they definitely have to shoot from deep to pay. Butler, Crowder, Igodala, Dragive, Robinson and Herro are all shooting more than 34 percent from 3-point range.
chris.herring: The Lakers have never really been his strong point outside of shooting, although Bronn had a late hot streak of how he eventually eliminated the Nuggets.
Dubin: KCP’s shooting in the mid-40s was deep during the playoffs as they were much larger than the usual mid-30s. Over 40 percent were shot with Rajon Rondo on approximately three attempts per game.
chris.herring: It would be such a terrible time for either of them to come again this way.
Dubin: On the other hand, this would be a good time for Danny Green to progress.
chris.herring: One tricky factor in trying to make sense of this matchup: They played with each other in December about 10 months ago.
Dubin: Kendrick Noon and Meyers Leonard were still in the starting lineup! James Johnson protects Lebron in the first matchup! Quinn Cook dragged the guard!
They were good Rajbhasha Divas.
dre.waters: It seems so long ago. A lot has changed for Miami since then.
chris.herring: In those two meetings, the heat was ahead through neck and neck or halftime. But each time, the Lakers had a big third quarter, one winning by 10 and the other by 11.
Eric Spoelstra is a brilliant coach, and if anything, this run has proved how great he is. But the Heat were a poor second-half team during the season, while the Lakers were relatively solid in that regard. Miami dropped an NBA-high 18 games in which it led by at least 10 points.
Not sure if this is a noticeable thing, or simply that the heat change defends a very midgame, which can turn the tap on or off for the opponent. But it will be interesting to see if they can finish the job if they take the lead against LA
Dubin: I wonder how many of them came pre-interval and how many came in bubbles. Emotions are not numbers, but it feels like those teams are making a comeback in the playoffs, not the team allowing opponents to join it.
chris.herring: Certainly it seems that there is some truth in the Eastern Conference’s clinic including that. I have chosen Miami in this series – partly because they have played against whatever they feel better competition and partly because of what they feel.
dre.waters: I actually chose Miami as well. In terms of playing outside their best player, they have been more consistent than me. And, like Chris said, it was against better competition – the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.
Dubin: I think we can say “The Lakers have two of the best players in the series but the [opponent] The next five or six ”of every series have been so far. How much do we think that matters in a series where Lebron and Eddie are probably going to play about 40 minutes a night?
chris.herring: I am at least a little worried about the Heat’s ability to generate a steady offense against this Laker defense. So a lot will depend on what kind of look Adibayo gets as a shooter and passerby. And much of this will depend on the Lakers’ defensive approach, which Jared mentioned will likely involve Davis for longer segments.
Jared, you didn’t choose Miami, did you?
Dubin: No one has asked me to take it, of course, unless this right is counted here. I think I would lean a bit towards the Lakers, but largely because I think the pick against LeBron is kind of stupid and not because I think the Lakers are actually better.
chris.herring: Ha ha ha ha
Dubin: (I’m not calling you guys stupid, if it sounded that way. I just feel silly and not LeBron.)
It’s always been a tough pick against Lebron, but someone had to do it, right?
chris.herring: Yes. If anything, I think the burden of proof against the team with the two best players here will be on the people.
One reason for this is that I am still completely shocked and confused that our projection model seems to care little about the Lakers, as it has for a while now. I heard about our podcast from the other day, on which Neil Pine gave the best description of what he could do. But I still could not make full sense of it.
I think that’s where we’re at, though: If Miami wins, it’s largely due to their depth compared to the depth of the Lakers.
Dubin: Yes, I would say that if the Heat win, it will be because of their 3-point shooting – but this shooting is coming from people with depth.
chris.herring: It is very easy to imagine Lebron and Eddie combined for 60 or 70 each night, though, and that is probably enough.
I was very close to having Duncan Robinson as my MVP option.
dre.waters: Miami has six people who can achieve double-digit averages in this series. And this may actually be enough.
chris.herring: I picked up Miami at six. I can pick up Robinson, smh.
Dubin: I’m interested to see if Robinson has yet another bad Game 1 and then hits multiple threads within the first minute of Game 2.
dre.waters: Chris and I are on the exact same page today … except for Robinson for the MVP pick. laugh loudly.
I have heat in six. But that’s mostly because I don’t know if they can top LeBron in an all-around-game Game 7.
Dubin: It seems strange to say, but I think the most important players in the series could be Crowder-Hero-Robinson and Green-KCP-Markieff Morris-Alex Caruso-Rondo. Just who gets better shooting from those groups.
chris.herring: We largely avoid the narrative of the Pat Riley / Lebron stuff. I think people will listen elsewhere. But I want to at least ask: How high would it be that would win LeBron’s legacy in the finals?
He has called it the most challenging season of his career, citing the demise of Kobe Bryant and Bubble, which I think we can all understand. I could also think that a lot of critics would look at the slate they made and say that the Lakers did not end up playing in one of the most prominent teams of this past season, without making a mistake. Order to win the title.
Dubin: I don’t know if it’s their fault that the Clippers and Bucks didn’t take care of the business. If anything, doing it in a bubble is almost more impressive than doing it at home.
chris.herring: I said that it is not their fault!
dre.waters: I think the better question, Chris, just considered the point whether losing in the finals would harm his legacy?
Dubin: Everyone knows that it is better to lose your legacy than to lose in the final before the finals.
Though the right of Jared …
Dubin: In all seriousness, the idea that a win or a defeat should change LeBron’s legacy makes no sense to me. Whatever it is, it is not going to wake up a better or worse player the next day of the final game of this series. In fact, it is supposed to confirm the priests of the people.
Then again, I said the same thing when the Cavs won their title, and that day it was a minority opinion.
chris.herring: There is almost certainly a lot of truth. Although I think people raise more questions when you lose the final as a favorite.
Dubin: It reminds me of what happened after the most recent Super Bowl, when people were finally ready to accept that Andy Reid is one of the best coaches ever, as if one game changed everything.
chris.herring: The strange thing here, as we all have said, is that the Lakers are in favor, but we can all back away and tell that something special has happened to Miami. You don’t roll through the postseason through the five-seeds near the Heat unless you’re on a mission.
I find it very hard to just pick up against them and all the stuff you throw at them, Xs and Os-wise, materially-wise, etc.
Dubin: I can accept that until Pat Riley is given credit. No, I will never climb it.
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