That was a hard fought contest and maybe the best basketball game of the Bubble. A see-saw game that saw big plays from multiple players on both squads. The Heat got Bam back but it wasn’t enough to stymie and multi-pronged Laker attack. Do the Heat have another wrench to throw in the gears?
- LeBron and AD playing more to form. We’ve said it here on the blog all year (literally, this season has taken a whole dang year almost!) and it’s still true today: we’re only going as far as James and Davis take us. They were both solid and steady all game long making the plays the team needed down the stretch, being tough on the glass (21 rebounds combined) and hitting the big shots down the stretch. Miami has certainly found a way to make the game tougher for LeBron and Anthony. The great ones find a way to rise above and reach a higher plateau and while neither player had a “one for the record books” game they both did the job of leading the team to a win.
- Starting guards to the rescue! KCP was stellar last night, huge on both ends and the victim of The Mystery of the Missing Whistle in the first half. Danny Green was also solid (for once) and when these guys contribute like this it makes LeBron and Rondo’s job a lot easier. The starting duo combined for 26 points (10-20, 5-14 from three), 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. That’s what we need to have happen on Friday to end the series otherwise we could easily be looking at game 6 on Sunday if they can’t make shots and impact other areas of the game. Pope was instrumental in overcoming a very sluggish start from LeBron.
- Bench Squad: In COLOR! I’m calling ’em the Bench Squad, a nod to the old Leslie Nielsen TV show, Police Squad (later turned into a cinematic trilogy, The Naked Gun) comedies but there’s nothing funny about these guys. To a man Rondo, Caruso, Morris and Kuzma played really well. With much of Miami’s bench now in the starting line up due to injury (or racking up DNP-coaches decision’s) the pressure our bench creates by playing well is more important than ever. If they can keep pouring in about 20 ppg and doing the things they’re supposed to be doing, especially on defense, it’s going to be hard for Miami to salvage another win. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Dragic comes back on Friday. One would assume he at least gives it a go which would mean he either comes off the bench (unlikely since the injury might stiffen up after warming up) or pushes Tyler Herro back to a secondary role.
- Keeping Butler off the free throw line. One of the big keys in any game against the Heat is keeping them, and especially Jimmy Butler, off the free throw line. It looked like we were going to fail in that task early on as the Lakers watched Miami rack up double digit free throw attempts to our 5 in the first half. We cleaned that up in the second half and stayed aggressive, getting ourselves to the line in the process and swinging the game in our favor. LeBron was relentless in attacking the pressure and helped close the free throw gap and AD’s defense on Butler was stellar.
- The continuing evolution of Frank Vogel. What a ride this team has been on, from going on one heckuva role just before COVID to coming into the Bubble playing in an underwhelming fashion. Frank had a line up that was clicking in the regular season. But it’s been really interesting watching how Frank has embraced, in his own way, the more modern concepts of NBA basketball. Using Morris more at center, using Dwight or JaVale to get AD some time at the 4 and saving him for late game excellence on defense. Unlocking the defense of Kyle Kuzma which has been huge in the playoffs and elevating Caruso to defensive spark plug. There’s certainly more to like about his evolution and growth and we can more into that in the off season. I just wanted to take a second and express my admiration for a coach who came in with a mind set, adapted it to the players he has, and made it work out on the court. Reminds me a lot of Nick Nurse, in that regard. Many coaches would be wise to adopt a similar level of flexibility in their thinking. Sometimes it feels like the philosophy and personnel don’t exactly mesh and that solid talent is relegated to the bench or cast aside in favor of an ideal. Vogel is practical, I admire that a lot.
One win people. One stinking win away from banner #17! It’s an incredible precipice we’re standing on and I am loving every second of these NBA Finals. Bam is back, it won’t be enough if we get solid contributions from the roster and good to great games from Davis and James. Jimmy B. needs to play at a historic, and frankly unsustainable, level in order to elevate Miami to ‘W’ potential. He might have one more of those in him on Friday but if I can go 0-fer on predictions and we get the cookie you can color me happy as a clam.