Freeman Cebu Sports

It’s Showtime with South Beach

NBA BUZZ - JV Araneta - The Freeman

For missing the playoffs last season, two opposing teams are rewarded with a trip to this year’s NBA Finals, spectator-less yet with multiple widescreen-mounted virtual cheering fans.  The LA Lakers will be gunning for their 17th title, with three-time Finals MVP LeBron James trying to win his fourth championship against his former team, the Miami Heat.  Both teams had gone 12-3 in their post-season runs.  This is a fitting end to the longest NBA season in history, simply weird in an equally abnormal situation. 

After 7 years, the Heat are back in the limelight.  Their last of 3 titles was won in 2013 with Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and you-know-who.  They are aiming for trophy number 4 and in the last 15 years, they’re the NBA’s only franchise appearing in 6 Finals.   This will be Miami’s first Finals appearance without franchise icon D-Wade.

And who will Wade be cheering for, his good friend LeBron or the Heat?  Spending 15 of his 17 seasons playing for Miami, he answered the question asked by Laker legend Magic Johnson, “We call this a win-win but it’s Heat Nation over here.”

The Heat, with their balanced attack and often a employing a zone defense, dominated in the bubble.  They swept Indiana in the first round, frustrated Eastern Conference title favorites Milwaukee in five games and won a great series with Boston in six games.

The Lakers disposed all three of their playoff opponents (Portland, Houston, Denver) in five games.  They are in their 32nd Finals in franchise history but their first since 2010.  The team had been to almost half of the NBA’s 74 championships, an impressive 43%.  The closest franchise is the Boston Celtics who had made 21 trips to the Finals.

Coming to the league in 1998, Coach Frank Vogel will be in his first NBA championship series.  John Kundla, Bill Sharman, Paul Westhead, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson all won titles in their first year with the Lakers and Vogel has the opportunity to join the elite cast.

Once every few years, LeBron changes teams and with his third team in 17 seasons, he's playing on his 10th NBA Finals, surpassing Laker greats Magic who played in nine, Kobe Bryant in seven and His Airness Michael Jordan who played in six.  With Cleveland and Miami and back to Cleveland and now in LaLa Land, he managed to bring greatness to these teams.

A day before the year ends, LeBron turns 36 and at this age, athletes are supposed to be old but he is one of nature's rarest anomaly.  I'm a Laker fan but not an LBJ fan but I do acknowledge his greatness and without question, is the game's best.  There were off nights. Years of playing had taken their toll but he made up with smarts and experience.  Yeap, flopping and whinning included.   With pacing, LeBron still dominates most games which is highly unusual for his age.

Number 23 aside, whoever plays good defense, controls the boards and make their outside shots will likely prevail.  There was prior anticipation of a Bucks-Clippers finale featuring Giannis Antetokuonmpo and Kawhi Leonard.  Well, we do have those two last names in opposing teams this series but the battle is on who sits on the bench longer - LAL's Kostas or MIA's Meyers.

Let's enjoy the series because it's gonna be Showtime with South Beach for the title in the bubble.


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