The NBA Finals African Blogtable brings together some of the top basketball minds from across the African continent sharing their thoughts on the Heat-Lakers matchup at every stage of the best-of-seven series. Here are their predictions ahead of Game 2.
How will the Heat respond?
I think Erik Spoelstra’s body language during Game 1 showed the gigantic task that he found himself facing. Not only the Lakers outscored and outplayed Miami, but they also put them in a very delicate emotional position. They shook them! Hence the primary task within the Heat is to make sure the mindset, however altered, is again at the highest level. Not impossible, knowing how important that particular characteristic is to the Miami Heat culture. Having said that, and looking back at the stats, there’s only two aspects of the game where the Lakers had a double-digit advantage – rebounds (54-36) and free throws (25/27 vs 11/14). And that just shows how terrible the Heat were inside, especially when Dragić and Adebayo were forced to leave, taking away any opportunity for a penetration. And this is where they need to be a lot better if they don’t want to get swept.
I am expecting much of the same in Game 2. The Lakers just seem to be a horrible matchup across the court for the Heat and for them to really keep the game close they will have to hope the Lakers bench doesn’t fire along with their two big guns. One seems to have to combat this Lakers side with full blown physicality and if you are shy of that, then you just may get steam rolled.
The next game will be complicated for the Miami Heat. Coming back from such a catastrophic start seems difficult. Injuries of Adebayo and Goran Dragić make it more complicated and we will have to monitor the recovery of these key players. Most of all, the Heat will need to be mentally ready. They were intimidated by the Lakers in Game 1, especially by LeBron, and they will have to really give everything they have, from start to finish.
I believe they have seen the tape and realized that the Lakers stole their (shooting) gene during the early blow out. They need to fix their shooting while hoping that the Lakers can go back to their usual self of not being an elite three-point threat. Another thing in question is how to stop Anthony Davis. They need to find an antidote to his venom. The likes of Tyler Herro, Robinson and Kendrick Nunn need to “feel” the Finals and the whole team needs to believe that they can beat the Lakers, while we all hope Dragić is fine.
Having played sport at a top level, I sort of comprehend athletes’ fantasies about living up to the expectations in key moments, at times to the detriment of their own health. Jimmy Butler says he will be ready for Game 2, but I’m afraid he’s heading the KD way. His ankle didn’t look right and he struggled in the later stages of Game 1.With Dragić potentially out of the picture for Game 2, Butler seemingly is the Heat’s biggest asset. Preserve him and play the reinvigorated “Buckets” in Game 3. Bam clearly had trouble dealing with a scoring big man and I’m not very sure he’ll have figured out how to handle AD in Game 2.
If Butler and Dragić are out, and cognizant of how well the Lakers set up for Game 1, I don’t expect a dramatic reaction. The Lakers’ confidence level is at all-time high now, but the Heat even without their star duo still have a decent team with Herro, Dunn and Iguodala. Putting up a strong performance in Game 2 can help them buoy comfortably into Game 3, where I think there will be fireworks.
It’s really easy to overreact to a first game blowout in a series. But nobody needs to get too high or too low just yet. Game 3 will be the real salient point of the series. What’s critical right now is health. The Heat need Jimmy, Bam and Goran to be functional at the very least, but if not, Andre, Duncan, Tyler and Jae have to be extremely solid. They’ve now been punched in the face and they could use that as fuel going forward.
Following the Lakers’ win in Game 1 that saw the Heat being brought back down to reality, Game 2 of the NBA Finals will be a game changer. The Miami Heat know that a win for them would tie the series at one game apiece and a loss would see them fall behind 2-0, and that would be a very difficult hole to climb out of. The injuries are not helping them in any way, with their lack of size also being an issue and their ball handling situations in need of a massive improvement. But they have the guts and must show it. There is really no pressure yet, unlike in 2014, but a good win in Game 2 would definitely light up the series.
It will depend on the state of those injuries to Dragić, Adebayo and Butler. Players tend to play through the pain barrier in the playoffs, and in particular in the Finals, but the Heat need to be physically able to take on the Lakers. If those three are carrying significant ailments, they won’t be able to do that. Which is sad, because it could lead to a very one-sided series.
Woury Diallo, Le Quotidien (Senegal):
Quite frankly, I find it hard to see the Heat finding a formula to surprise the Lakers. Jimmy Butler will have a hard time carrying the team on his own. He tried to take matters into his own hands in Game 1, but it was not enough. Facing a team of the Lakers caliber, they will need a whole team, a collective, to hope to win at least one or two games. Having said that, I think we have to wait for more details on the injuries of Goran Dragić and Bam Adebayo. If both players are not 100%, the series will get complicated for the Heat. Jimmy Butler’s will and determination will not be enough. We saw that in the first quarter of the series opener. It was the collective that gave them a 10-point lead and it will take the same collective to restore their hope to go far in the Finals.