For the first time ever, the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers will meet in the NBA Finals for the first time in league history.
Headlined by the relationship of LeBron James and Pat Riley, it’s bound to be a thriller best-of-seven series.
Here are three of the keys Miami must regulate to claim an NBA title for the first time since 2013.
1. History continues with Heat defenders vs LeBron.
If a team is going to beat the Lakers, they must first stop LeBron James. Luckily for the Heat, forward Andre Iguodala was Finals MVP when the Golden State Warriors defeated a Lebron-led Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 back in 2015.
His most notable impact on that series was his defense against James. He got sung all the praises from the media after he put the clamps on one of the world’s best in his prime.
While Iguodala has gotten older and isn’t expect to shadow James as he did back then, it’ll be a major boost for the 16-year pro to make some key stops on the defensive side.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler had an extremely impressive performance against Lebron James in the 2013 Eastern Conference semi-finals. Although the Chicago Bulls did lose that series, Butler held Lebron to 39 percent shooting from the floor throughout five games.
Considering he was just in his second year in the league, there’s no questioning Butler has improved defensively. This match-up will be one to watch for when James and Butler are in 1-on-1 situations. While it won’t be ideal, numbers show that it’ll be a great option for coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat.
Another defender that we could see on Lebron is Jae Crowder. He’s physical, strong and a known nuisance to opposing defenders. Crowder’s able to lock up players on the wing, making it likely for him to guard James sometime during the series. The two were teammates in Cleveland, so Crowder could be familiar with James’ weaknesses from their time on the practice floor with the Cavaliers.
2. Bam versus Anthony Davis.
Bam Adebayo has been on a tear during Miami’s postseason campaign, coming off an Eastern Conference Finals series in which he averaged 21.8 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 1 block per game.
Now, he faces his toughest battle yet in First-Team All-NBA power forward Anthony Davis. In the two games against the Lakers this season, Adebayo averaged 11.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. On the flip side, Davis notched 29.5 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists against the Heat.
This disparity can not be that large if Miami wants to be competitive against the Lakers.
Expect Adebayo to also be guarded by former three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, along with center JaVale McGee. Those are some tough assignments for a 23-year-old, but they’ll be necessary for the Heat be crowned champions.
Adebayo’s development through this playoffs has been noticeable, averaging 18.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in 15 contests. His rebounding is the fourth-best in the NBA through the postseason. He’ll need to stay on the upward trend for the Heat to have a realistic shot in this series.
3. Can’t repeat previous 3-point outings vs. the Lakers.
It’s not a secret that the Heat were the second-best team from downtown during the NBA regular season in terms of three-point percentage at 37.9. They were also sixth in makes and ninth in attempts beyond the arc.
In their first match-up versus the Lakers, Miami shot their worst percentage from downtown, making just 17 percent of shots from three-point range. In their second game against L.A., they had their 11th worst performance, shooting just 30.3 percent.
The three-ball is a critical part of the Heat offense and they must avoid performances like this to get their offense going against an offensive powerhouse in the Lakers. The Heat have shooters like Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Jae Crowder that they just must get going in this series.
There’s no room for error. That starts Monday at 9:00 p.m.