Photo by Justin Greenzaid
Though conditions were unlike any other National Basketball Association championship ever, the 2020 NBA Finals did not disappoint. The fifth-seeded Miami Heat from the NBA’s Eastern Conference were set to play the Los Angeles Lakers, the top seed from the Western Conference. After breezing through the NBA playoffs with a 12-3 record, the Lakers showed everyone that they reigned superior in the west. The Heat on the other hand, needed to battle against higher seeded opponents in each of their series.
Coming into the championship with an identical record as the Lakers (12-3) and playing much tougher competition, including beating the one seed from the east in a quick five-game series, the Heat proved they were a team that must be respected.
The Lakers were trying to win a championship to honor the late Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, so they were going to have to get past arguably their toughest competition yet, the Miami Heat. The underdog Miami Heat definitely were not going to back down from this final roadblock to obtain their fourth ever Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, the trophy awarded to the winning team of the NBA Finals each year.
Coming into game one, the Miami Heat had not lost a single game one in their 2020 playoff run. Until now. LeBron James and the Lakers rolled over the Heat. With a final score of 116-98, the Lakers won by almost 20 points. Anthony Davis led all players in minutes played and points with 34 points in 38 minutes, displaying that it is not just James that the Heat have to stop but also the seven-time All-Star, Davis. After dropping the first game by nearly 20 points, many fans ruled off this year’s finals thinking it was already over for the Heat.
Game two reiterated just how strong the Lakers were. Winning the game with a final score of 124-114, the Lakers jumped to an assertive 2-0 lead in the series. Jimmy Butler, an all-star for the Miami Heat, played a heaping 45 minutes of game two, resting for only a mere 3 minutes the entire time. The Lakers had too much star power to stop in this game with both James and Davis scoring over 30 points each. The Miami Heat, now 0-5 in the playoffs when allowing over 115 points, would have to really pick up their defensive play if they wanted to win the finals.
“We’re never giving up, we’re going to fight. We’re going to ride with this thing until the wheels fall off. It’s not over, we’re just down 0-2, we got to do something special, we’re capable of it,” Butler said during his game two postgame interview with the TV network, Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.
Butler absolutely stuck to what he said, with a special 40-point, triple-double performance, meaning he recorded double digit figures in three different statistical categories, in game three to give the Heat their first win of the series. Davis only had 15 points in 33 minutes played and the Lakers had to rely on more than just their franchise players. Supporting cast forwards, Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris, scored 19 points each. However this was not enough to assist the Lakers to a win as they lost 115-104. With the series now 2-1 in favor of the Lakers, the series began to get more interesting. His historic performances cemented that Butler was the centerpiece of the Heat organization, the leader of the team.
The 2020 NBA Finals had an average of 7.5 million viewers in the United States. With sports cancellations of their own and not much to do, it was much easier for teens around the country to watch.
“It was easier to watch because there’s nothing else to do because of COVID. I watched all the games and I was rooting for the Heat the whole time because they were the underdogs and the sleeper team of the playoffs. I also like their players more,” sophomore Jamie Calhoun said.
Game four of the series was an extremely close battle the whole game. The Lakers came away with the win, just barely topping the Heat with a final score of 102-96. Every one of the Heat’s starting five played over 30 minutes in game four, with just three players coming off their bench. It was visible that they started to get worn-out down the line. Jimmy Butler was just one assist away from another triple double. Even with Butler playing 43 minutes and putting up monster numbers, the Heat were not able to even the series at two-a-piece and were now facing elimination down 3-1.
For game five, the Lakers opted to wear their “Black Mamba Jersey” in honor of the late Kobe Bryant. The Lakers had not lost a game all season with those jerseys on, and they certainly did not want to lose this one. To win the championship in these jerseys would be remarkable.
Jimmy Butler ruined the Lakers’ night with a 35-point triple-double in 47 minutes played, only resting for 49 seconds. Along with Butler, Heat guard Duncan Robinson had his own 26 points helping support his team just barely pull out a much needed win. Robinson was undrafted out of college and embodies a classic underdog story.
“Duncan Robinson was my favorite player from the finals because nobody would have expected him to be where he is today. He is defying all odds and is playing extremely well,” sophomore Wyatt Dunn said.
The series, now 3-2, could swing either way. The Heat could come back from a 3-1 deficit and win the championship in seven games or the Lakers could win just one game of their own and end the series instantly. The only possible outcome that could occur after just one game happened. The Lakers won. LeBron James and Anthony Davis took control, scoring a combined 47 points which is more than Butler, Herro, Robinson, and Crowder (four of Miami’s five starters) had combined. Winning the game by 13 points, there was no doubt the Lakers were the stronger team.
The Lakers brought back their 17th Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy in team history and LeBron James won his fourth Finals MVP award of his career, becoming the first player to ever do so on three different teams. Although they lost the series 4-2, Jimmy Butler and his extremely young Miami Heat teammates showed they could be the team of the future.
“I really enjoyed watching this year’s NBA Finals because both team’s wanted to win just as badly as each other. It was definitely a one of a kind NBA Finals, being played in the bubble and the Lakers winning after Kobe died was something extraordinary,” Dunn said.