Lakers, Heat Make History By Meeting In 2020 NBA Finals
Jimmy Butler, Alex Caruso, LeBron James
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat playing in the 2020 NBA Finals is a historic matchup in that it’s the first time both teams playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy failed to reach the playoffs the previous season.

LeBron James’ debut season with the Lakers fell vastly short of expectations as a mixture of the new changes, injuries and off-court drama culminated in his absence from the NBA Finals for the first time in eight seasons.

Former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson wasted no time in embracing the championship aspirations upon taking control of the front office. Unfortunately, his plan to move forward with a roster of playmakers and young talent around James quickly proved to be ineffective.

Johnson attempted to salvage a frustrating year by trading for Anthony Davis, only for negotiations to fall through at the deadline. It was not long after that the rumored turmoil in the front office would lead to Johnson’s resignation and the Lakers missing the playoffs at 37-45.

While James’ arrival did not initially go as planned, general manager Rob Pelinka would help turn the team’s fortunes around by parting ways with their young pieces in exchange for Davis. It is safe to say that the trade did not take very long to start paying dividends as the Lakers secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in dominant fashion.

Los Angeles managed to pick up right where they left off prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown by making quick work of each formidable playoff opponent.

First off, was one of the hottest teams in the bubble with the Portland Trail Blazers led by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Then came the small-ball Houston Rockets and their innovative style of play the was supposed to give the Lakers fits. Finally, it was a Denver Nuggets team that established themselves as comeback kings after overcoming multiple 3-1 deficits.

One-by-one each team expressed confidence in pulling off a potential upset and one-by-one they were eliminated in five games. Despite an unprecedented year for the the Lakers both on and off the court, they are now in position to put the finishing touches on one of the greatest turnarounds in recent history.

Meanwhile, the Heat’s rebuilding process has been much more grueling as their attempts to usher in a youth movement resulted in their absence from last year’s playoffs at 39-43. This spurred Pat Riley to go all-in on signing Jimmy Butler and this would set a new precedent that the team had sorely lacked in recent years.

Riley maintained an emphasis on developing the young core with the emergence of Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson. He alleviated this by bringing in grizzled veterans such as Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder to give the Heat an edge when it came to playoff experience.

Their healthy mix turned out to be a blueprint for success as they swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round before making quick work of the Milwaukee Bucks in five games. The Boston Celtics may have taken them to six games, however, they still managed to make it to the Finals in the same amount of time as Los Angeles.

2020 NBA Finals schedule

Wednesday, Sept. 30: Game 1, Lakers vs. Heat, 6 p.m PT, ABC
Friday, Oct. 2: Game 2, Lakers vs. Heat, 6 p.m., ABC
Sunday, Oct. 4: Game 3, Lakers @ Heat, 4:30 p.m., ABC
Tuesday, Oct. 6: Game 4, Lakers @ Heat, 6 p.m., ABC
Friday, Oct. 9: Game 5*, Lakers vs. Heat, 6 p.m., ABC
Sunday, Oct. 11: Game 6*, Lakers @ Heat, 4:30 p.m., ABC
Tuesday, Oct. 13: Game 7*, Lakers vs. Heat, 6 p.m., ABC

*if necessary

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