NBA Playoff Predictions 2011: 8 Reasons a Lakers-Heat Final Will Still Happen
Since the beginning of the season, fans have been begging for an epic Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat matchup in the 2011 NBA Finals.
The Lakers have to get through a very tough Western Conference if they want to make it, and the Heat’s ability to win big games has been questioned throughout the season.
Even though there is so much doubt right now, this matchup might still be the most likely scenario. As the season approaches its homestretch, both teams seem like they are starting to put it together.
These are the eight biggest reasons why LeBron James and the Heat will square off against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
8. Udonis Haslem and Andrew Bynum Should Be Healthy for the Playoffs
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These two game-changing inside presences have only played in a combined 59 games, 12 fewer than LeBron James has played individually.
Haslem is not a starter for the Heat, but he is definitely their most valuable role player. He has not played since November 20, but was averaging eight points and eight rebounds for the Heat at that time.
If the Heat want to compete with the big teams out East, they will need Haslem back on the floor.
Bynum, for once, is actually healthy and playing some of the best basketball of his career. In the month of March, he is averaging 12.1 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.
What makes the Lakers so good is their overwhelming size. When Bynum is in the starting lineup with Gasol, they are a matchup nightmare for every team in the Western Conference.
7. San Antonio Might Be Breaking Down
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The San Antonio Spurs seem to be the biggest obstacle that stands in the Lakers' way. They are big, tough, strong and have plenty of playoff experience.
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan have all been healthy for most of the season, but they seem to be breaking down lately. This is a huge red flag for the Spurs.
Duncan is currently out with an ankle injury and Ginobili is day to day with soreness in his quad.
Neither of these injuries seems very severe, but it is not a good sign for an old team. Maybe this is the year that the long, punishing regular season finally catches up with the aging Spurs.
If it is, then the Lakers should be the clear-cut favorites to win the West.
6. Boston’s Size Is No Longer as Menacing
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The Boston Celtics pulled off one of the most surprising moves of the deadline when they traded starting center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder for forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic.
Without Perkins, the Celtics have lost much of their tough inside presence. Now they will need to rely on old centers like Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to control the paint.
One of the main reasons the Heat have had trouble with the Celtics was because of the toughness that Perkins brought. Without him on the team, the Heat should not be afraid to take as many shots in the paint.
5. Both Teams Rebound Well
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The Lakers are the fourth-best rebounding team in the NBA while the Heat are the seventh-best. Both teams have at least three players averaging over seven boards per game.
Most people would not think of the Heat as a strong rebounding team, but their stars are a big reason for that. The big three averages a combined 22.5 rebounds per game.
When it comes to the playoffs, limiting second-chance points is one of the most important things a team can to do. Teams will get burned if they allow too many offensive rebounds.
4. Defense Wins Championships
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It is an overused expression, but it is true that defense does win championships. Both the Lakers and Heat are top-10 defensive teams.
The Lakers get it done with their defensive versatility. Forwards Lamar Odom. Ron Artest and Matt Barnes can guard just about any player on the court. This gives the Lakers a great advantage because they can defend any lineup.
The Heat also have very versatile defenders, but their main defensive strength is that they can make big plays.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all are quick jumpers and have been known to come through with clutch blocks. Role players like Mario Chalmers and Eddie House use their sneaky quickness to get steals.
3. Wade Shows Up in Big Games
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LeBron might be criticized for disappearing in big games, but Wade has proven that he shines under the bring lights of the playoffs.
Wade has already made the NBA Finals once before and carried his team to a championship.
He has a career average of 26.3 points per game in the playoffs. Last season he averaged a career-best 33.2 points per game.
Some people think that LeBron has started to take over this team, but I don’t think this is the best move. Wade needs to run the Heat. He has gone the distance and has proven he can carry a team to the promised land.
2. Kobe Is Still the Best
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Kobe Bryant is 32 years old and in his 14th season in the NBA, but he's still got it. The scary thing about him is that he has become more and more unselfish as he has become a bigger superstar.
Bryant is willing to do whatever it takes to win. If the Lakers need rebounds, he rebounds, and if the Lakers need assists, he distributes.
Still, Kobe’s best skills remain his scoring and his closing ability. There is no player in the NBA I want taking my team’s last shot more than Kobe Bryant.
He is as clutch and as accomplished as anyone in NBA history.
1. Big Stars Win Big Games
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In football, the head coach and emotion make so much of a difference that the best teams don’t always win. However, in basketball, the teams with the very best players tend to win the championship.
There are no lineups as star-studded as those of the Lakers and Heat.
The Lakers are led by a strong core of veterans, some of whom have multiple NBA championships. The Heat are led by one of the most amazing trios ever assembled in Wade, James and Bosh.
The reason it is so important to have great players is that the team is not dependent on a single guy.
The Lakers can rely on Kobe some nights, Gasol others and even occasionally Lamar Odom. Likewise, the Heat can rely on each of the big three to carry them if needed.
This is why it is tough to be confident in teams like Orlando and Dallas. Orlando lives and dies with Dwight Howard, and Dallas does the same with Dirk Nowitzki.
The more stars you have, the more options you have. The Heat and Lakers are too loaded and will meet in the NBA Finals.