In the eyes of many, the Los Angeles Lakers are right where they are supposed to be at this moment in time. In the 2020 NBA Finals, getting ready to take on the Miami Heat, in search of the franchise’s 17th championship. If you asked LeBron James where he thought he would be toward the end of the playoffs, he’d tell you right here. Maybe not in the NBA bubble, but that sort of took everyone by surprise. This Lakers team had, for the most part of this season, dominated. That dominance bled into the postseason. Are we going to see that same dominance against the Heat in the finals? Let’s take a look.
How the Lakers got to the finals
The Lakers enter the NBA Finals with a 12-3 record. In the first two rounds, L.A. dropped Game 1 before sweeping the rest of the games. It almost seemed like a feeling out process that the Lakers were going through, trying to identify what the opponent was doing before striking (and boy did they strike after that). The Lakers mostly rode strong offense through the first round with LeBron James and Anthony Davis carrying the load.
In the second round, defense was key as L.A. held the Rockets to under 102 points in three of four wins. Not to discredit the Lakers, but it almost felt like Houston beat itself — mostly because Russell Westbrook didn’t look like the same player. The lack of size to contain AD and Dwight Howard caught up to the Rockets and the only way they could feasibly win was to shoot the lights out (which only happened once, maybe).
You could tell that the Nuggets series was when the Lakers had to kick it into 12th gear. Had AD not hit that buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Game 2, perhaps we’re talking about the Nuggets being in the finals against the Heat. It was definitely a big momentum swing in the Lakers favor. Even though L.A. would drop Game 3, it was still an uphill battle for Denver rather than being up 2-1. Ultimately, the Nuggets could keep up on offense and, again, no answer for Davis.
Best Bet to win Finals MVP?
I agree that LeBron should be the favorite to win finals MVP. He’s -106 on DraftKings Sportsbook and that’s more than fair. Do I think LeBron will win finals MVP? Not exactly. Davis has been the MVP for the Lakers all playoffs. James has been great, especially in Game 5 vs. the Nuggets, but Davis has been the slightly better player overall. So with that in mind, Davis being +200 to win finals MVP seems like a pretty good value bet.
For some reason, Rajon Rondo is 200/1 to win finals MVP and there are a few Lakers ahead of him (Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma). To me, if anyone on L.A. is going to surprise us and win finals MVP it’s playoff Rondo. He saw his role diminish a bit vs. Denver but that doesn’t concern me much. That was mostly because Dwight Howard needed to take up more minutes to deal with Nikola Jokic. The Heat are smaller, so lineups like Rondo, KCP, Danny Green/Caruso, LeBron and AD make more sense to me. Rondo’s been here before. He’s a long-shot and it would likely take a few triple-doubles, but it’s possible for him to win finals MVP.
Daily Fantasy Spotlight
There are going to be Showdown contests throughout the finals and Game 1 is already posted, so get your lineup in now. In a more broader sense for the series, there are a few guys I’m looking at on the Lakers. Obviously, Anthony Davis is the big name and, to me, is the top play overall. He’s a bit more consistent than LeBron, though James has the higher ceiling to me after Game 5’s triple-double. So if I’m paying up for anyone night in and night out, it’s AD.
As for value guys, there are a few to target for L.A. Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stand out. Both performed well throughout the conference finals. KCP had double-digit points in four of five games. He’s quietly been the Lakers’ best outside shooter in the playoffs. Caruso had been getting pretty consistent playing time throughout, around 23-24 minutes per game. If coach Fran Vogel doesn’t mess with the rotation from the conf. finals, we may see more Caruso rather than Rondo again. I’m interested to see how that shakes out in Game 1. Either way, Caruso is an energy guy off the bench and can give Miami’s depth a bit of problems.
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