As we head into game five of the NBA Finals, after the Los Angeles Lakers took a commanding 3-1 lead*, can the Miami Heat pull off a near impossible comeback, or will the Lakers finish them off?
First let us look at how Miami can manage to steal the series from the Lakers. The most important thing that Miami needs to win is to get healthy. Getting Bam Adebayo back was huge for them, but without their starting point guard, Goran Dragic, Miami cannot win the series. Dragic offers scoring and, most importantly, someone who can create their own shot in late game situations. Miami really missed his shot creation late in game four when they struggled to hit a shot down the stretch. Without Dragic, Miami is too reliant on all-star forward Jimmy Butler down the stretch. With the Lakers making the switch to put defensive player of the year runner up Anthony Davis on Butler, Miami will need someone to step up late game and although rookie Tyler Herro has shown capabilities to do this, he is to turnover prone to give him that responsibility.
Miami also needs Jimmy Butler to be more aggressive. To many times in this series has gotten into the paint and passed out looking to set his teammates up. Butler was able to get away with this in previous series but against the Lakers he must put his foot on the gas. If Miami wants to win, they need Butler to play how he did in game three with his 40-point triple double performance. In that game he was aggressive and did not settle when he got to the paint and was able to get to the free throw line or finish at the rim. If Miami wants to win Butler must put up a historic performance like he did in game three.
Most importantly, Miami really needs to prevent the Lakers from getting offensive rebounds. A common theme in the series is when the Lakers can control the offensive glass they easily win. In game two, when the Lakers had 16 offensive rebounds, they won easily. Adebayo coming back helps Miami big in that department but even with him in late game situations they allowed the Lakers to get the offensive board. If Miami even wants a chance to win, they must stop the Lakers controlling the offensive glass.
For the Lakers, on the other hand, they must do two things.
One: stop Butler and make someone else on Miami beat you. They cannot let Butler go off like he did in game three. In game four the Lakers did a great job by putting Anthony Davis on Butler as it affected Butler’s effectiveness in getting to the rim. If Butler can consistently get to the rim and score, the Lakers will be in trouble in game five.
Two: LeBron James and Anthony Davis must continue their dominance taking it to paint and beat up Miami’s small ball. In game four James had very slow start but was able to pick it up in the second half which the Lakers needed. Davis, on the other hand, must be aggressive. If Davis can repeat his game two 32 point and 14 rebound performance Miami stands little chance. If James and Davis come out the gate aggressive and set the tone, they win this game. Coming out aggressive can send the message to their teammates that they need to end this series tonight, and if they can do that then the Lakers will officially be your 2020 NBA Champions.
*This article was written prior to the 2020 NBA Finals. The Lakers ended up the victors.