The Miami Heat took down the best team in the Eastern Conference on their road to the N.B.A. finals. Now they’ll have to overcome the Los Angeles Lakers, the West’s best team, to claim the championship.
The fifth-seeded Heat are unexpected contenders for this season’s trophy but worthy of the challenge after beating the Milwaukee Bucks, the East’s No. 1 seed, in the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers, with the fearsome duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, should be prepared for Miami’s best shot.
How to watch
What: Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals
When: 9 p.m. Eastern time, Wednesday
ImageCredit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Here’s what you need to know:
The Lakers haven’t won a championship in 10 years.The Heat have multiple options to defend LeBron James.Bam Adebayo is one of Miami’s breakout stars.This has been the longest N.B.A. season ever.Jimmy Butler wakes up early. Really early.
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The Lakers haven’t won a championship in 10 years.
ImageCredit…Nathaniel S Butler/NBA, via Getty Images
Sports fans tend to be irrational, and many Lakers fans are surely so: They expect to win a championship every season. Over the first decade of this century, they almost did.
The Lakers won championships in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010. The last one — in seven games over the Boston Celtics — brought the franchise total to 16 championships.
Of course, Celtics fans will be quick to point out that 16 are great and all, but 17 — their 17 championships — are better. That’s the N.B.A. record.
The Heat have multiple options to defend LeBron James.
By Scott Cacciola
The Heat have several wings they can throw at James — including Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder, who was part of a trade that also brought Andre Iguodala to Miami from the Memphis Grizzlies. Iguodala, though, is more familiar with James than most, having matched up with him several times as the Warriors’ go-to stopper.
“You want to get guys away from their strengths,” Iguodala said when asked about defending James. “He has a lot of them, so just being strategic.”
There is also a more-than-solid chance that the Heat will play some zone defense against the Lakers, who have been one of the poorest 3-point shooting teams in the playoffs, at 35.5 percent.
Bam Adebayo is one of Miami’s breakout stars.
ImageCredit…Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
By Marc Stein
As Bam Adebayo’s college coach, John Calipari is admittedly biased but also unapologetic when he gushes about his former player and how much the burgeoning Miami Heat star has improved since imploring Calipari to bring him to the University of Kentucky.
“He reached out to us,” Calipari said. “He was like, ‘Why isn’t Kentucky recruiting me?’
“He didn’t ask me how many guys I had,” Calipari continued. “He didn’t ask me if I was going to recruit anybody else like him or, ‘Am I going to get the ball all the time?’ He’s built different.”
Adebayo has proved it all year, ascending to All-Star status in his third N.B.A. season and playing with distinction in the league’s bubble.
Read more about Bam Adebayo’s big season here.
This has been the longest N.B.A. season ever.
By Sopan Deb
Do you remember being shocked by the cascade of trades and free-agent signings in the N.B.A.? There was a time when that was what would elicit gasps from fans. But last off-season — call it the Summer of Player Empowerment — was just the tip of the iceberg for this bizarre N.B.A. season that, at times, seemed stranger than fiction.
There was the N.B.A. finding itself embroiled in a conflict with an international superpower as well as the United States government — all over a general manager’s tweet. Followed by the shocking deaths of Kobe Bryant and David Stern. The Knicks being the Knicks. Several high-profile injuries and then: the season’s postponement as a result of the global pandemic, followed by months of social unrest.
But the finish line is in sight. At a time when teams would normally be gearing up for a new season, the N.B.A. is still trying to complete the old one. It’s been a long year, so you’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember all the twists and turns that brought us here.
Here is a rundown of the strangest N.B.A. campaign in the league’s history.
Jimmy Butler wakes up early. Really early.
There’s a solid chance that Jimmy Butler threw off his blankets and sprang out of bed before you did today.
If there is a single trait associated with the Miami star, it is his monumental work ethic — which happens to fit well with the vaunted Heat culture fostered by the team president Pat Riley and Coach Erik Spoelstra. In early October, the Heat’s first team practice was slated to start at 10 a.m. Butler woke up at 3:30 a.m. and got in a workout beforehand.
“Just a little extra work while y’all in your third dream,” Butler told reporters. “I like to get it in.”
Not everyone was impressed, including Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who said Butler was doing it “for show.” Butler did not appreciate his comment.