Although it has been a decade since the Los Angeles Lakers were last in the NBA Finals, there is little time to celebrate since the Miami Heat eliminated the Boston Celtics in six games.
The Lakers find themselves in unfamiliar territory by not having to wait several days to see who their next opponent will be after ending each playoff series thus in five games. Given their residency in the bubble over the last several months, they are well aware of the impressive playoff run the scorching Heat have enjoyed up to this point.
Miami was pegged as a bit of a dark horse team going into the Orlando bubble. Few, if anyone, expected them to win the Eastern Conference in such dominant fashion. Their healthy mix of battle-tested veterans and talented young players has proven to be quite potent.
The Lakers remain heavily favored thanks to the play of their stellar duo in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Regardless, head coach Frank Vogel is not overlooking the Heat and what he sees as a trio of All-Star caliber players in Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic.
“They’re extremely well-coached, they’ve got a lot of ways that they can beat you, to me they have three All-Star level players in Butler, Bam, and I’ve always thought Goran Dragic, when healthy, is an All-Star level player,” Vogel said.
“Obviously a Hall of Fame addition in Andre Iguodala, they have shooting, they have toughness, and like I said, they’re extremely well-coached. It’s no surprise they’ve had such a successful postseason run.
“Very impressed with what they’ve been able to accomplish, beating three teams convincingly that were on pace over an 82-game season to win plus-50 games. We’re going to have to be at our best to beat them.”
Vogel also shared some high praise for the emergence of Adebayo. “He’s not becoming (a rising star), he’s already there. He’s terrific,” Vogel said.
“I had a chance to spend a little time with him at All-Star Weekend. He’s a terrific young man, a great talent, really fits the modern NBA in terms of playing the center position with all that he can do. Obviously being a dynamic roller, but like Nikola Jokic, he’ll bring the ball up from the 5 position and run the break and make plays off the bounce, which is very unique for the center position.
“He can really do it all. Protects the rim defensively and can switch out. He’s a huge reason for their success this year.”
This postseason has featured a number of notable, young stars make a name for themselves by performing well on the biggest stage. The Lakers already put down one upstart duo in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
They will now have to deal with another in Adebayo and Tyler Herro while grizzled veterans like Butler, Dragic, and Andre Iguodala continue to oversee the operations.
Davis discusses accountability on roster
While Vogel credits Dragic with serving as the third option for Miami, that role has been a crapshoot for Los Angeles since they have had to rely on several different players to step up and steal the show alongside James and Davis on any given night.
Despite their status as the clear-cut leaders for the Lakers, Davis credited the roster for holding each other to the same standard without any egos involved.
“This group’s IQ level is very high. Guys hold each other accountable. It really doesn’t even come from the coaches. If a player messes up, another player gets on him, no matter who it is,” Davis said.
“Dudley is really the guy who sits back and watches a lot of the games. And during the games he kind of critiques and looks at what’s going on on the floor and kind of calls guys out. He called me out, he called ‘Bron out, Rondo. It doesn’t matter.
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