The Miami Heat have had as impressive of a postseason run as anyone could have ever expected.
The Milwaukee Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo — this year’s recipient of the league’s Most Valuable Player award — were the heavy favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Nobody expected the Miami Heat to power through the Eastern Conference playoffs with their scrappy bunch led by oft-disgruntled perennial all-star Jimmy Butler, who had experienced very little postseason success in his career before this season.
However, the Heat are led by one of the NBA’s best coaches, Erik Spoelstra, who has been the Heat’s head coach since 2008 and led the team to four straight NBA Finals appearances and two championships in 2012 and 2013 in the “Big Three” era.
LeBron James, along with sidekicks Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, were the faces of those championship teams, so people sometimes forget about Spoelstra’s strong reputation as one of the most innovative coaches in the league.
This has been evident all throughout this year’s postseason, as they wore down the heavily-favored Bucks in the conference semifinals and the talented Boston Celtics in the conference finals.
It was not just Jimmy Butler who led the Heat to victory in these hard fought series.
Bam Adebayo has been a force to be reckoned with. Goran Dragic, who came off the bench for the majority of the regular season, has returned to his former all-star form as the starting point guard this postseason.
Tyler Herro, Miami’s first-round draft pick last offseason, has emerged as one of the best players in the draft class.
They have also relied on role players like Duncan Robinson, a deadly three-point shooter, and Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder, their trade acquisitions from midseason.
The Heat have worn down the Eastern Conference’s most talented teams by playing with intensity on defense and some of the best ball movement on offense in the NBA.
Spoelstra deserves a ton of credit for how well his team has been playing and it is evident how much his players love playing for him.
However, the Miami Heat go into the NBA Finals as the biggest underdogs since 2002.
This is because they will face two of the league’s top players when they face the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ first season together has been a tremendous success, as Davis himself has admitted that the team developed a chemistry together quicker than he could have predicted they would.
Davis has had an outstanding first year with the Lakers and has been one of the best defensive players in the league this season, along with his usual production on offense.
Playing with Davis has allowed James to play the way he wants to play, which is by sharing the basketball. James finished the season as the NBA’s leader in assists for the first time in his career, averaging 10.2 assists per game.
James closed out the Eastern Conference Finals with a 38 point, 16 rebound and 10 assist game to win Game 5 and secure his 10th NBA Finals appearance of his career.
Both James and Davis have proven time and time again that they have the ability to put their team on their back and close out a win.
Davis had the most iconic moment of his career so far in Game 2 of the conference finals against Denver, where he took over the game at the end of the fourth quarter and hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to seal the win for the Lakers.
While the Miami’s Heat’s unlikely run to the finals has been incredible, during this postseason the Lakers appear to be an unstoppable force to beat.
Janssen can be reached at [email protected].