The Los Angeles Lakers seem to be in control of the 2020 NBA Finals, leading 2-0 against the Miami Heat. But in a pursuit of perfection, L.A. reiterates the team can still do better.
“Myself, Coach and A.D. were not happy with our defensive presence tonight,” LeBron James said after the 124-112 Game 2 victory. “We know we can be a lot better and we’re just, myself and A.D., we’re not satisfied with just the win. We want to be great.”
James has been known for his “strive for greatness” mantra, reminiscent in a way of the late Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality.
And having learned from his own mistakes of the past, such as the lost 2011 Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the three-time NBA champion is aware that the series is not over until… well, it is over.
This type of mindset is particularly important against a team like Miami. A gritty group of talented and extremely determined players who come out of the locker room every game thinking they are better than their opponent.
The Heat cut a 32-point lead to 13 in Game 1 and came back from 18 points down to within nine in Game 2 — all the while missing their leaders, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, since the second half of the series opener.
Their resilience has been well-documented this postseason.
But as James pointed out, L.A.’s defense was often at fault for those Miami runs.
The Lakers are boasting an overall net rating of 112.8 over the two Finals games. But upon a closer look, it turns out the rating drops to 131.8 in the third quarter and 118.2 in the fourth period, which is when the Heat’s short-lived comebacks occurred.
There are definitely holes to be plugged in that Lakers defense, particularly in the second half.
Another factor that works to L.A’s disadvantage is the unpredictability of the Heat’s rotation.
Miami is a considerably different team without Dragic and Adebayo. When well-shooting bigs replace the starting Heat center, the offense migrates from the paint toward the perimeter to an even greater extent.
And while Dragic and Adebayo were listed as doubtful for Game 3, the latter said he would be on the floor on Sunday night providing Lakers head coach Frank Vogel with a gameplan headache.
However, none of that will matter if Anthony Davis continues his monstrous form in these Finals. The All-Star forward is averaging 33 points and 11.5 rebounds, shooting 63.4% from the field and 60% from deep.
On offense, Davis and the Lakers are thriving against the small Miami lineups. James himself is registering 29 points and 9 assists while adding 11 rebounds a game, proving L.A.’s dominance in the paint.
They have also exposed Miami’s weak links on defense in the young Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. With the guards on the floor, the Heat have so far been outscored by 36 and 29 points respectively.
So yes, the Lakers indeed are in control of the Finals. But yes, they can still get better, as James claimed.
He knows the Miami organization inside out and understands its winning mentality. And he knows how erratic and unpredictable this game can get if you take your foot off the pedal for a second.
Sleep yet again eluded James following Game 2 as he could not wait to dissect L.A.’s footage from that night.
Because he recognizes the Lakers need to ensure the Heat are rid of any lingering hopes for a comeback — and a win in Game 3 will bring the Lakers extremely close to doing just that.
Heat (0-2) vs. Lakers (2-0)
4:30 p.m. PT, Oct. 4, 2020
ESPN Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Florida
Radio: 710 AM ESPN L.A.
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Danny Green
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris
Projected Heat starting lineup:
PG: Kendrick Nunn
SG: Duncan Robinson
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Bam Adebayo
Key Reserves: Tyler Herro, Andre Iguodala, Solomon Hill, Kelly Olynyk
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!