National Basketball Association
5 Pressing Questions Entering the NBA Finals
National Basketball Association

5 Pressing Questions Entering the NBA Finals

Published Sep. 30, 2020 3:53 a.m. ET

Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off Wednesday night, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat battle for basketball immortality.

With the stakes at their highest, the narratives and storylines abound on both sides, and FOX Sports' Chris Broussard is here to answer five burning questions heading into the 2020 NBA Finals:

1. Will Anthony Davis step up on the big stage?

If the NBA posttseason has taught us anything about The Brow, it is that no moment appears too big for the Lakers All-Star big man.


And he has taken his play to a higher level as the playoffs have progressed.

In the Western Conference finals against Denver, he averaged 31.2 points while shooting 54.9 percent from the field and 92.6 percent at the free-throw line, scoring at least 30 points in three of the five games.

Now, he enters the Finals facing his toughest matchup yet this postseason in Bam Adebayo, the Heat's young All-Star center.

While Broussard thinks Adebayo will be a formidable opponent for Davis, he believes this is the moment Davis has been waiting for in his career.

“AD will play well, very well. Bam Adebayo is a tough defender, but playing on the big stage is what AD went to L.A. for. He will not waste this opportunity. Don’t be surprised if he wins the Finals MVP award.”

Davis has scored at least 25 points in 13 of the Lakers 15 playoff games, and the Lakers are 10-3 in those games. In addition, Davis is averaging 28.8 points per game in the playoffs, the most of any player in the Finals.

2. Can Herro be the hero again?

In the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, Miami had four players average at least 19 points per game, and one of them was reserve rookie guard Tyler Herro.

Herro averaged 19.2 points while shooting 51 percent from the field in the ECF, and scored a career-high 37 points in a 112-109 Game 4 victory over the Celtics to give the Heat a 3-1 lead.

If the rookie has been anything for the Heat this postseason, it's consistent.

He has scored in double-figures in all 15 of the Heat's playoff games so far, and is averaging 16.5 points this postseason, three points higher than his 13.5 regular season average.

The confidence he plays with is a big part of why the Heat are in the Finals, as well as the chip he carries on his shoulder.

And though he has been one of the feel-good stories on this improbable run to the Finals for the Heat, Broussard believes it will be a lot to ask of a rookie to continue that level of production on the NBA's biggest stage.

“Tyler Herro was playing high school basketball two years ago. He’ll have a few moments in the Finals, but for him to shine like he did in the Eastern Conference is too tall an order for the 20-year-old.”

3. Can Iggy contain LeBron again?

Davis is the Lakers leading scorer this postseason, but the offense goes as LeBron James goes, which has been the case all season.

After leading the NBA in assists during the regular season with 10.2 per game, James has continued to set the table for the Lakers in the playoffs with an average of 8.9.

But while his playmaking has remained the same, James has upped his scoring in the playoffs from 25.3 to 26.7, as well as his rebounds from 7.8 to 10.3.

And the total package was on display from James in Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets.

Now, James will face a familiar opponent in the NBA Finals – veteran Heat forward Andre Igoudala.

James and Igoudala squared off against one another in the Finals four times between 2015 and 2018, with Igoudala's Warriors coming out victorious in three of those four Finals matchups.

James has still gotten his though, even in defeat.

In the four Finals series against Golden State, James averaged 35.8 points, 29.7 points, 33.6 points, and 34 points per game, respectively.

Broussard anticipates it will be more of the same this time around as far as the matchup between James and Igoudala goes.

“Again? Iggy has never contained LeBron – and he knows it. But he’s a smart, tough defender who’ll guard LeBron as well as one can. Won’t matter though.”

There is no stopping James, and there truly isn't any containing him either, but Igoudala has seen James at the biggest stage more than anybody. If he can fluster James enough throughout the series, it will put the Heat in a position to keep the games close down the stretch.

4. Can Jimmy Butler match LeBron and enter superstardom?

Adebayo, Herro, and even Goran Dragic have had their moments as the Heat's star player on any given night.

But the heart and soul of the team is All-Star forward Jimmy Butler.

Butler has been the Heat's second-leading scorer with 20.7 points per game this postseason, while also being third in assists (4.7) and second in rebounds (5.7).

And he knows that if he is going to be crowned a champion, he is going to have to take the crown from King James.

The matchup between the two All-Star big men of Adebayo and Davis will go a long way in deciding this series, but so will the matchup between Butler and James.

In the eyes of Broussard, that will be an uphill battle for Butler and the Heat.

“Jimmy Butler is a very good player who has blossomed into a perennial All-Star. But there’s no way he can match LeBron. He is not a superstar. Period.” 

5. Key to Miami pulling off the upset?

It has been an improbable run to the Finals for Eastern Conference's fifth seed in Miami, and they will need to pull off their biggest upset yet if they are going to be crowned champions.

Miami has been the Cinderella story of the 2020 postseason, but Broussard believes the run stops here for the Heat.

"Miami cannot beat the Lakers. The Lakers can only beat themselves by going arctic-cold from the arc and foul line, and by turning the ball over a ton. For Miami’s part, it must shoot lights out from three, out-hustle the Lakers every minute of every game, and Erik Spoelstra must devise a defense that severely limits LeBron, as he did against Milwaukee and Boston.”

There is merit behind this claim from Broussard as well, with the Lakers going 12-0 this postseason when they make at least 30 percent of their three-pointers. They are 0-3 in the games they shoot below that mark.

The Lakers also have been prone to turning the ball over, averaging 15.9 per game this postseason, which is the third-most of teams that played this postseason.

The issue reared its head at points in the Western Conference finals against the Nuggets.

The Lakers are also 2-0 this season against the Heat during the regular season, winning the first matchup in STAPLES Center in November, 95-80, and then again in Miami at American Airlines Arena, 113-110, in December.

Going even further, the Lakers are 4-0 against the Heat over the last two seasons since LeBron's arrival in Los Angeles.

Another key will be the play of veteran point guard Goran Dragic.

Dragic leads the Heat in scoring and is second in assists this postseason with 20.9 points and 4.7 assists. He has scored at least 20 points in 10 of the Heat's 15 playoff games.

It's not often that a team's leading scorer is their x-factor, but that might be the case for Dragic and the Heat.

If he continues his high-scoring playoff run, the Lakers could find themselves in a tougher series than many anticipated.


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