LA not the only winner
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2020 - 12:00am

The NBA Finals ended in the Orlando bubble yesterday morning (Manila time) with the Los Angeles Lakers capturing their first trophy since 2010, leaving the Miami Heat gassed out in a grueling series that took six games to finish. While the confetti rained on the Lakers to celebrate the team’s 17 title in history, it wasn’t just LA that emerged triumphant in the unprecedented restart under pandemic conditions. Here are the 10 winners of the NBA Finals.

• The NBA. At first, it was hard to imagine that the league could pull off the reset. More than the $170 million budget, what brought the bubble experiment to succeed was the determination of every player, every coach, everyone involved in the operations to make it work. Before the bubble opened its doors last July 7, 25 players had tested positive. From July 7 to 19, two were escorted out of the bubble for positive results. But from when the games started last July 30, no positive case was reported. The unconventional thinking to stage eight seeding games for 22 teams mathematically in contention for the playoffs was debatable but it made sense to get the competition underway. Beyond the action on the court, the NBA also delivered strong social messages with players voicing out sentiments on their jerseys, the courts emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” and ads urging everyone to vote in the coming presidential elections. Commissioner Adam Silver made it all happen.

• The Lakers. Props to LA. LeBron James and the gang got the job done, elevating the franchise back on the throne after a 10-year wait. The Lakers were No. 1 in the Western Conference with a 52-19 record, ranking No. 1 in field goal percentage, No. 1 in blocks and No. 4 in points allowed. In the playoffs, they carved out identical 4-1 decisions over Portland, Houston and Denver before eliminating Miami, 4-2, for the trophy.

• Miami. Not too many thought the Heat would go all the way to the Last Dance, entering the playoffs seeded No. 5 from the Eastern Conference. But coach Erik Spoelstra found different ways for Miami to barge its way into the Finals. The Heat got going in the playoffs by blanking Indiana, 4-0, then upset top-seed Milwaukee, 4-1 and shocked Boston, 4-2. In the Finals, the Lakers were tipped to sweep but somehow, Miami manufactured two wins before bowing out. Spo mesmerized the basketball world with his tactical brilliance.

• The Comeback Teams. It was the first time two teams that didn’t make the playoffs the previous year advanced to the Finals. LA was 10th in the West and Miami 10th in the East last season. Their resurrection gave hope to every team that with hard work, the right pieces and conviction, anything can happen.

• The One and Only King. LeBron was pissed that he received only a handful of first place votes in losing the MVP balloting to Giannis Antetokounmpo in the regular season. Giannis may have been the best player but LeBron was the clearly the most valuable.  The King, 35, proved himself in the playoffs, pocketing his fourth championship ring in 10 Finals appearances.  This time, there was no doubt who deserved to be the Finals MVP.

• Herro the Hero.  Miami guard Tyler Herro became the youngest Finals starter ever at 20 years, 256 days old.  He will be remembered for his 37-point eruption off the bench in Miami’s 112-109 win over Boston in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  Herro averaged 14.7 points in the Finals.

• The Butler did it.  Jimmy Butler was incredible in Miami’s two wins in the Finals.  In Game 3, Butler compiled 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists as the Heat took a 115-104 decision.  In Game 5, he delivered 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Miami stayed alive, 111-108.  It was his first season with Miami and Butler earned a billing as the Heat’s new Dwyane Wade.

The Backups.  The Finals showed that as awesome as LeBron, Anthony Davis and Butler were, they’ll only be successful with help from teammates.  In Game 5, Butler’s triple double would’ve gone for naught if not for Duncan Robinson’s 26 points.  In Game 6, LeBron’s triple double wouldn’t have been as scintillating if not for AD’s 19 points, Rajon Rondo’s 19 and Kantavious Caldwell-Pope’s 17.

• The Brow.  If there was LeBrawn, there was LeBrow.  AD was the tag team partner LA needed for LeBron.  Together, they were virtually unstoppable.  AD’s versatility to play in and out is a matchup nightmare for any team.  He’s only 27 and in his eighth season, the previous seven with New Orleans.  When LeBron eventually retires, AD will inherit the kingdom.

The Wounded.  Miami’s Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic were hobbled.  AD played through pain in his heel.  Bam’s only 23 and a budding star but it was tough to handle the Lakers’ physicality.  He missed two Finals games while Dragic sat out four with a torn plantar fascia.  Their competitive spirit was evident throughout the Finals and they, too, should be recognized.

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