Lakers and Heat shine inside bubble as most unpredictable season comes to close in Orlando

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SB Nation NBA staff

Sam Kassan, Staff Writer

With most of the world on lockdown, millions were in quarantine without any idea of the next time they would be able to see live sports.  News of an NBA restart was a beacon of hope for basketball fans across the globe.  As the details of the “NBA Bubble” started to surface, it seemed some sort of normalcy would return: sports.  Within a few weeks, Giannis Antetokounmpo was throwing down poster dunks on anyone brave enough to step into the paint.  Now, the Lakers and Heat have advanced to the NBA finals for the first time since 2010 and 2014, respectively.

 The bubble is located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World, Florida.  All of the players, coaching staff, medical teams, and other personnel have been isolated there for the past few months in order to shield everyone inside from the rampant coronavirus.  

“The day I heard the news of the season restart was the best day I’d had since quarantine started.  All of the countless long, boring nights with nothing to do would soon be filled with NBA basketball,” said sophomore Jack McNaughton. 

The playoffs began after eight seeding games per team, and the first round did not disappoint.  Two different series ending up going to Game 7.  James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the Rockets finally beat out Chris Paul, undrafted breakout star Luguentz Dort, and the Thunder in a neck-and-neck seventh game.  After trailing 3-1, the Nuggets, led by young stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, also narrowly escaped Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz in a thrilling Game 7.  In the quarter-finals, the top seeded Bucks were shocked by the fine-tuned Heat and lost in five games behind a lackluster performance by two-time MVP and Defensive Player Of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo.  

The Celtics-Raptors matchup was one to remember, with some of the best games of the year, as the Celtics prevailed in seven games.  In the Western Conference  quarterfinals, the Los Angeles Lakers took care of the Houston Rockets in just five games.  Murray and the Nuggets continued to impress, as they came back once again from down 3-1 against the Clippers, the first and only team to do so twice in one postseason.  Paul George, whose bubble struggles led to nicknames like “Pandemic P,” and Kawhi Leonard could not catch a break as the Nuggets beat the heavily-favored Clippers 104-89 in Game 7.  Unfortunately for the Nuggets, their historic playoff run would soon come to an end, with the Lakers rallying behind LeBron James’ 38-16-10 triple double to end Denver’s championship aspirations.  The Celtics eventually fell to the Heat in Game 6, behind Bam Adebayo’s 30-point double-double. 

The Finals matchup is set, with the number one seed Lakers taking on the five-seed Heat for the championship.  While the Heat are clear underdogs, this will be far from a cake walk for the Lakers.  The Heat have a strong leader in Jimmy Butler and a talented, cohesive supporting cast surrounding him.  Bam Adebayo has the ability to take over a game on both sides of the court.  Goran Dragić has been a top scorer and fan-favorite rookie Tyler Herro is an offensive beast, scoring a career high 37 points in the Heat’s Game 4 win over the Celtics.  Duncan Robinson, currently in the midst of the most efficient catch-and-shoot three point season in NBA history, will also cause matchup nightmares for the Lakers.  

“I believe the Heat will be the 2020 NBA champions.  They’ve played really well in the bubble so far, and their chemistry and heart is unmatched.  Even with LeBron, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the Lakers, I think the Heat will be able to play well enough to win the series in seven games,” said sophomore Sean Mondschein. 

The Heat will have plenty on their hands with this deadly Lakers team.  The Lakers have no shortage of firepower on their roster, starting with someone who many consider to be the single greatest basketball player in history and the MVP Runner-up, LeBron James.  It is his 17th year in the league, yet he has shown no signs of slowing down.  Alongside James is another top player, Anthony Davis.  An All-Defensive and All-NBA first team player, Davis’ ability to score from all areas of the court is something that the Heat should be terrified of.  

“Even though the Heat have turned it up in the postseason due to their stellar defense and shooting, they’re still heavily outmatched by the star-studded Lakers,” said sophomore Alex Almahmoud.  

However, it will take more than just these two to win the Finals.  Other players, including seasoned veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard, will have to step up to the occasion or the Lakers will be headed home empty-handed.  This year’s NBA Finals should be a great series, and it looks to be an exciting end to the rollercoaster ride that was the 2020 NBA season.