The Miami Heat took down the best team in the Eastern Conference on their road to the N.B.A. finals. Now they’ll have to overcome the Los Angeles Lakers, the West’s best team, to claim the championship.
The fifth-seeded Heat are unexpected contenders for this season’s trophy but worthy of the challenge after beating the Milwaukee Bucks, the East’s No. 1 seed, in the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers, with the fearsome duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, should be prepared for Miami’s best shot.
The Lakers fight back from deficit with 3-pointers.
Miami’s Jae Crowder came into the N.B.A. finals mired in a 4-for-28 slump from the 3-point line. All Crowder did in the first quarter was make his first two 3s and start out defensively against the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, allowing his teammate Bam Adebayo to roam freely early on the defensive end.
Moving the ball crisply and getting everyone involved as this team is known to do, Miami surged to an early 23-10 lead. Back-to-back 3s from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, with LeBron James resting on the bench, kept the Lakers from losing touch early. Caldwell-Pope’s 3s sparked a 21-5 run from the Lakers to close the opening quarter and surge into a 31-28 lead — with a corner triple from the Lakers reserve Alex Caruso capping the comeback.
Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra’s reaction:
(He’s in the bottom row, next to Shaquille O’Neal.)
Here’s a peek inside the arena.
Times sportswriter Scott Cacciola is reporting from inside the N.B.A. bubble at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.
N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said the league ‘can do better’ on diversity.
Silver acknowledged in a pregame news conference that the league “can do better” when it comes to hiring of Black head coaches.
“I don’t see a way to operate a league where the league office, the commissioner, is dictating to a team who they should or shouldn’t hire. Or who they should and shouldn’t fire, frankly,” Silver said in response to a question about whether the league should institute its own version of the Rooney rule — the N.F.L. policy that teams must interview people of color for coaching positions.
In the last year, several Black coaches have been dismissed or resigned, including Doc Rivers, who mutually parted ways with the Los Angeles Clippers this week. There are five more head coach openings in Philadelphia, Indiana, New Orleans, Houston and Oklahoma City. White coaches have filled previous openings this season with the Knicks, Nets and Bulls.
“We’re in discussions with all of those teams about making sure there’s a diverse slate of candidates,” Silver said, adding, “Let’s talk again after we fill these six positions and see where we are because I know we can do better.”
Silver also said at the news conference that many of the details for next season were still up in the air. He reiterated that the earliest start would be Christmas — “a traditional tentpole day for the league” — but that it was more likely to begin in January. He also said it was the league’s goal to have fans in seats, even before a vaccine has been widely distributed, “dependent on some additional advancements.”
“Rapid testing may be the key here,” Silver said.
The Lakers haven’t won a championship in 10 years.
Sports fans tend to be irrational, and many Lakers fans are surely so: They expect to win a championship every season. Over the first decade of this century, they almost did.
The Lakers won championships in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010. The last one — in seven games over the Boston Celtics — brought the franchise total to 16 championships.
Of course, Celtics fans will be quick to point out that 16 are great and all, but 17 — their 17 championships — are better. That’s the N.B.A. record.
The Heat have multiple options to defend LeBron James.
The Heat have several wings they can throw at James — including Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder, who was part of a trade that also brought Andre Iguodala to Miami from the Memphis Grizzlies. Iguodala, though, is more familiar with James than most, having matched up with him several times as the Warriors’ go-to stopper.
“You want to get guys away from their strengths,” Iguodala said when asked about defending James. “He has a lot of them, so just being strategic.”
There is also a more-than-solid chance that the Heat will play some zone defense against the Lakers, who have been one of the poorest 3-point shooting teams in the playoffs, at 35.5 percent.
As Bam Adebayo’s college coach, John Calipari is admittedly biased but also unapologetic when he gushes about his former player and how much the burgeoning Miami Heat star has improved since imploring Calipari to bring him to the University of Kentucky.
“He reached out to us,” Calipari said. “He was like, ‘Why isn’t Kentucky recruiting me?’
“He didn’t ask me how many guys I had,” Calipari continued. “He didn’t ask me if I was going to recruit anybody else like him or, ‘Am I going to get the ball all the time?’ He’s built different.”
Adebayo has proved it all year, ascending to All-Star status in his third N.B.A. season and playing with distinction in the league’s bubble.
This has been the longest N.B.A. season ever.
Do you remember being shocked by the cascade of trades and free-agent signings in the N.B.A.? There was a time when that was what would elicit gasps from fans. But last off-season — call it the Summer of Player Empowerment — was just the tip of the iceberg for this bizarre N.B.A. season that, at times, seemed stranger than fiction.
There was the N.B.A. finding itself embroiled in a conflict with an international superpower as well as the United States government — all over a general manager’s tweet. Followed by the shocking deaths of Kobe Bryant and David Stern. The Knicks being the Knicks. Several high-profile injuries and then: the season’s postponement as a result of the global pandemic, followed by months of social unrest.
But the finish line is in sight. At a time when teams would normally be gearing up for a new season, the N.B.A. is still trying to complete the old one. It’s been a long year, so you’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember all the twists and turns that brought us here.
Here is a rundown of the strangest N.B.A. campaign in the league’s history.
There’s a solid chance that Jimmy Butler threw off his blankets and sprang out of bed before you did today.
If there is a single trait associated with the Miami star, it is his monumental work ethic — which happens to fit well with the vaunted Heat culture fostered by the team president Pat Riley and Coach Erik Spoelstra. In early October, the Heat’s first team practice was slated to start at 10 a.m. Butler woke up at 3:30 a.m. and got in a workout beforehand.
“Just a little extra work while y’all in your third dream,” Butler told reporters. “I like to get it in.”