A $170 million dollar investment by the NBA.
Zero Covid-19 cases.
The Los Angeles Lakers won the best of seven series 4-2 to claim their 17 NBA Championship and first since 2010. It was a convincing 106-93 win over the Miami Heat in the NBA bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
LeBron James was ready to leave the bubble. He finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and ten assists. He captured his fourth Finals MVP award, becoming the first player in NBA history to win the trophy with three different teams.
It was a relentless attack from the Lakers offensively while the Heat struggled. The buses were warming up in the first half.
The Lakers scored 64 points on 52.4 percent shooting and only committed six turnovers. They dominated in the paint with 34 points, giving the Lakers a 64-36 lead at the half. The 28 points were the second-largest halftime lead in Finals history.
“When you are able to put yourself in this position to win a championship, the first thing you start to think about is how much work you put in throughout the course of the year,” James said. “Being able to put the work in literally trust the process, live about the process, and see the results, we all live for that moment.”
Anthony Davis finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Davis and James combined for 47 points, 29 rebounds, and 13 assists. The rest of the Lakers jumped on the bandwagon. Kentavoius Caldwell-Pope finished with 17 points; Rajon Rondo was hot off the bench with 19 points.
“It is tough, especially in this environment; I thought it was tough just getting to the second round when I was in New Orleans,” Davis said. “It is tough playing for a championship; this team we just played, the Heat, are a tough team, resilient, they fight, their dogs, their scrappy, they made it tough for us.”
Lakers were the number one seed out of the western conference; in the bubble, during a pandemic or a normal regular-season, LeBron and the Lakers dedicated their quest for the 17th title to Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, were victims of a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, in late January. The NBA renamed the All-Star Game MVP Award in his honor.
“We didn’t let him down; ever since the tragedy, all we wanted to do was do it for him,” Davis said. “It would have been great to do it last game in his jerseys; it made us come out even more aggressive, more powerful on both ends of the floor. He is looking down on us, proud of us; Vanessa is proud of us; the organization is proud of us. He was a big brother to all of us; we did this for him.”
It was a narrative the was lightly mentioned. Still, LeBron continued to share the job was not complete in addition to the revenge season he labeled at the start because he was labeled washed up coming from a season-ending groin injury.
“Thinking I had something to prove fuels me, and it fuelled me over these last year in a half since my injury,” James said.
The Heat earned respect for getting this far. A 3-1 series deficit was too high of a mountain to climb though Miami won Game 5.
Lakers’ defensive game plan on Jimmy Butler was locked and loaded.
Butler finished with 12 points, 5-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds, and eight assists in 44 minutes. He averaged 29 points on 55.8 percent shooting, 8.6 rebounds, and 10.2 assists in the Finals’ first five games. The workload and expenditure in minutes caught up to him.
“We are trending in the right direction,” Butler said. “We are going to learn from this; we are going to get better, we are going to come back. That’s what we were all saying in that locker room; we have guys who are ready to get back in the gym, that’s what we do here.”
Davis sealed up the lanes, not allowing high percentage shots near the basket for the Heat. They were 13 of 22 from the free-throw line. The Heat shot 10 of 28 from three. At one point, Tyler Herro attempted a three-point shot in the first half, only to hit the side of the backboard.
Miami was down by as many as 36 points and never had a lead. They were outscored 52-44 in the paint.
All-Star center Bam Adebayo was not fully recovered from a neck injury he suffered in Game one of the series. His numbers were impressive, finishing with 25 points, ten rebounds, five-assist, and two blocks; his struggles were evident around the basket, and there was no stopping Davis.
“At the end of the day, I would not want to be in the locker room with no other guys,” Adebayo said. “Everyone was complaining that they don’t want to be here; nobody wants to be here, we stayed solid, we wanted to be here, we wanted to compete.”
Goran Dragic returned to play in Game 6 despite a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, but it was just an A letter grade for effort. He had no impact in the game, finishing with five points.
Mentally and physically, Miami was built for the bubble.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was in tears to start his postgame press conference. They earned respect for getting this far, against the odds, but they faced LeBron and Davis. Two of the greatest basketball duos of all-time.
The roles players did not make a huge difference to push Miami to a Finals victory. The Lakers were favored in every game. Game 6 was demoralizing and the inescapable.
In the end, though not champions, the Heat’s 2019-20 season was a surprising success. After missing the playoffs in three of the previous five seasons, Miami went on to the Finals for the sixth time in franchise history.
Congratulations to both the Lakers and Heat and completing the most extended season in NBA history.