That’s how long the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers have been in the NBA bubble in Orlando, away from most of their families, all of their friends, and everything else at home that’s familiar.
So, it’s natural to think that, at this point, the Heat players may have had enough. They’ve already exceeded all expectations but, after the injuries to Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, fell behind 3-1 in the NBA Finals and don’t seem to have much of a shot.
You couldn’t blame them for being at less than their best in Game 5 on Friday.
But that’s not them, and that defiance was evident during their media availability on Thursday. They will compete, because that’s what this group has done for the past year.
But – can they win? Here are three keys:
- Water reaching its level: Entering the NBA Finals, Heat were one of the best teams in the league, shooting and defending 3-pointers. The Lakers were not good in either area. Yet the Lakers are outshooting the Heat, 36 to 35 percent, in this series. And they’re doing it at much higher volume. For the Heat to have any chance, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Jae Crowder, in particular, need to make their open 3s. Otherwise, it’s over.
- Butler outplaying LeBron: It happened in six of the 16 quarters in this series, but it needs to happen in at least three out of four in Game 4. Easy task? No. But Butler has earned respect. To come-from-behind to earn a championship, the NBA’s ultimate come-from-nothing story has to take it from the King. That means being aggressive from the start. It’s fine to try to get
the shooters involved, but when it’s not going for them, he needs to get to the rim, and at least get fouled.
- Stick with man: It’s fine to mix in some zone positions, but the Heat will be in a stronger mindset if they’re manning up more, like they have in the past couple of games. The defense wasn’t the issue in Game 4, and Erik Spoelstra needs to show the same trust again. If Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso beat you from deep, so be it. But they’re not driving by you consistently against man.
The Better Bet: Take the points with Miami +7. Miami will make the Lakers work, even if the Lakers pull it out and finally burst their bubble and win the title.
-- by Juicy J