As we continue awaiting the return of Weber State University sports, I am going to take a look at each post-season that comes and goes and give a breakdown of how things went. I’ll be starting with the NBA.
For the past few years, I had considered the Los Angeles Lakers as one of the worst teams in the NBA.
In recent years, they usually found themselves at or near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Not only was their placing bad, but they’d also find themselves as an occasional victim of a blowout.
Things weren’t going great in Los Angeles and seeing mediocre teams like the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings finish higher in the standings made me realize that the Lakers had changed drastically.
This is a franchise that had won 16 NBA titles and found themselves in the playoffs nearly every season until their drought began in 2014.
Part of their struggles came from their rosters, which were horrible to say the least. Outside of the late, great Kobe Bryant, there was not a player that stood out.
Due to their struggles, the Lakers had chances to rebuild through the draft, and in 2017 with the second overall pick, they drafted Lonzo Ball instead of brewing superstars Donovan Mitchell or Jayson Tatum. However, Ball struggled while with his hometown team and was traded to New Orleans last summer.
The Lakers had gone from one of the best teams in the league during the early 2000s to one of the worst and truthfully, I had little to no expectations for their future with that roster.
Everything would change very quickly.
During the summer of 2018, Los Angeles signed arguably the best player in the NBA: Lebron James.
After four seasons of going to the NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron took his talents to Hollywood, so he could help the Lakers become a powerhouse in the league once again.
He guided the team to a much better year in 2019 but they still finished 10th in the West and once again missed the playoffs. Something needed to change.
The Lakers then pressed the red button on a trade that sent Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for their superstar forward, Anthony Davis.
Instantly, they became my pick to win the 2020 NBA title. This year, they were at the top of the Western Conference until the league shut down due to the coronavirus.
The NBA eventually returned inside a ‘bubble’ at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and the Lakers sent plenty of teams home early.
The Lakers battled the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets from the Western Conference in the playoffs, but, as predicted, Davis and James stole the show.
Usually, one part of the dynamic duo would score 25 points or more while the other played effectively on the defensive side of the court.
As if guarding James wasn’t hard enough, coaches and players now had to figure out how to stop him when he had a teammate like Davis, who was more than capable of scoring 40 on any given night.
Outside of their offensive capability, Los Angeles smothered their opponents on defense, hardly giving an inch of space, which made it extremely difficult to score in crunch time.
Davis, or ‘AD’, was the leading scorer for the squad as he had 20 or more points in almost every game leading up to the NBA Finals.
He is one of the most versatile big men that we have seen in the NBA. While Davis plays excellent defense, the fact that he can shoot the ball better than any other player at his position is what sets him apart from others in the league.
Fast-forward to game two of the Western Conference Finals against Denver when AD showed his greatness with a game-winning three at the buzzer. At that point, I felt like no team could stop Los Angeles.
However, that was not a given. The team the Lakers played in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat, also had a remarkable playoff run of their own.
Their first opponents in Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks, were the best team, so it was pretty difficult to imagine the Miami Heat beating them in the semifinals. To everyone’s surprise, not only did Miami eliminate Milwaukee, but they won 4-1 and made it look easy.
Miami went on to shock the world again by beating the Boston Celtics in six games to win the Eastern Conference Finals, setting a date with the Lakers in hopes of another series upset.
This year’s championship match-up marked a special milestone in the league’s history: it was the first time teams playing in the finals had missed the playoffs during the previous season.
Despite the games not being played on any team’s home turf, the stars were out and their names were LeBron James and Heat forward, Jimmy Butler.
Butler’s performance in game three was probably the best I have ever seen in the NBA. Butler scored 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists as he recorded a triple-double in a win that cut the Lakers series lead from 2—0 to 2—1.
Butler had multiple games where he dominated, but James was not to be outshined, as he notched multiple double-doubles throughout the series.
Later in the series, the Heat won game five while on the brink of elimination, a game that was one of the best in the bubble. The victory could have gone either way as Butler and James both played at an unbelievable level. They each led their teams in scoring with Butler having 35 and James scoring 40.
Butler and his Heat were able to outlast James and the Lakers with a 111—108 victory and cut the series lead to 3—2.
In the next game, the season came to an end once the Lakers regrouped and cooled off the red-hot Heat 106-93. It was a dominant performance from the NBA Champions as they lead 87—58 heading into the final quarter.
After spending a few years sitting at the bottom of the league, the Los Angeles Lakers are now the 2020 NBA champions and have tied the Boston Celtics for the most championship banners all-time with 17.
The celebrations will continue throughout the whole off-season, but James, AD and the rest of the team realize that they are very much capable of doing it again next season.