2020 NBA Finals | Lakers vs. Heat

24 thoughts on the Lakers' Finals-clinching Game 6 vs. Heat

Sekou Smith

Sekou Smith

ORLANDO, Fla. — One of the benefits of the Heat stretching The Finals to six games was the potential return of veteran point guard Goran Dragic, who went down with a left plantar fascia tear in Game 1.

The Heat battled their way to this point without him, so they were obviously capable of capturing Game 6 without Dragic. But in the event that he was ready to play, ready to give them anything at all, that had to be a positive, right?

Just having him active for Game 6 could have been enough to rattle the Lakers and perhaps inspire the Heat, who needed another four quarters of what they produced in their Game 5 win Friday night.

Dragic stayed locked in on this series, doing whatever he could to try and get back in the mix. How much of an impact he could have on the game was anyone’s guess. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gave an optimistic assessment prior to Sunday’s Game 6.

“He’s still been incredibly involved,” he said of Dragic. “You just have to notice on the bench what kind of leader he is. He wants to be out there with his heart and soul, but his body will tell him whether he can do it or not. Either way, he’s going to make an impact.”

Toss in Frank Vogel’s starting lineup tweak (Alex Caruso in and Dwight Howard out), and there was more than enough drama riding on what could be the most intense game of this series, given all that was on the line.

The Dragic news (it’s news either way) swept through the grounds here before tipoff. But it would be foolish to bury the lead on what’s going on here tonight: This was a legacy moment for one man above all others.

***

24 — Not sure what the Caruso play does for the Lakers. Dwight Howard’s antics and ineffectiveness made it an easier decision for Vogel, I’m sure. How it takes a toll on Anthony Davis, who will match up with Heat All-Star big man Bam Adebayo, is worthy of a close eye early on. I reserve the right to reconsider this later on tonight, but on the surface I don’t like this idea.

23 — Duncan Robinson playing with some of that residual flame he had in Game 5. He’s drained a couple of big 3-pointers already. But the real show-stopper of the first quarter is easily LeBron. He makes it look effortless at 35.

22 — This Heat team simply won’t go away regardless of the circumstance. The Lakers have forced five early turnovers and you’d think the Heat would be rattled. But no. They’re down 17-6 with just over three minutes to play in the first quarter with their youngsters (Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn) all making an impact. We don’t talk about the job Spoelstra has done with these guys but it’s truly an odd sight, seeing this from first- and second-year players.

21 — Dragic is in. Time to see if “The Dragon” will swing the momentum the Heat’s way …

20 — This is going to be another part of this conversation tonight, for sure, depending on how Dragic fares …

19 — Lakers on a good roll to end the first. They’re playing with tons of energy and getting exactly what they need from LeBron and AD.

18 — LeBron putting together one of those nights right now with 11 points (5-for-6 from the floor), six rebounds and three assists. AD following his lead and Rajon Rondo with championship energy off the bench. Heat are in dangerous territory right now. Spoelstra needed a timeout to slow the Lakers down and let his guys regroup.

View this post on Instagram

Set the tone, King 👑

A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on

17 — LeBron is in freight train mode tonight, which is always my favorite mode to see him in. The fact that he can do this 17 years in should be noted and filed away for use later.

16 — There’s a veteran point guard who changed the momentum tonight. It’s just not Dragic — it’s the Lakers’ unsung hero this entire series.

15 — Lakers getting whatever they want on offense and smothering the Heat on the other end. This is championship effort from the men in the white jerseys. Bam looks particularly overwhelmed by the energy the Lakers are bringing. 51-32 with 4:01 to play before halftime. Just an absolute blitz by the Lakers right now.

14 — Tank looks to be on empty right now for Miami. Lakers up 64-36 at the half. Time to pack up the bubble? It’s looking that way.

13 — It’s definitely time to pack up!

12 — How quickly the narrative changes, from doomsday at the end of Game 5 to this at halftime of Game 6 …

11 — Sitting here at halftime wondering what kind of verbiage we’re going to get from LeBron after this one. Whole lot going on in 2020. You know he’s going to have words for his doubters (real and imagined).

10 — This is a great point from an NBA OG: ”You know you did this to yourself, right?”

9 — Cold, but true. You learn from lessons like this in this league.

8 — The conversation shifts in this moment to what it means long-term for all involved, LeBron in particular. I respect Isiah’s opinion more than most. We can agree to disagree on things.

… and this has to register on the cool meter for the Hall of Famer, two-time champion and colleague:

7 — Classy stuff going on in L.A. as the Lakers put the finishing touches on this bubble experience and No. 17. You always hear about a city being a “[INSERT TEAM HERE] Town.” Not sure what folks in the Southland would say, but it’ll be a Lakers Town into the wee hours of this night.

6 — What’s gone on down here is nothing short of remarkable. From the planning, the buy-in from all sides to the execution and finish. Just remarkable to finish a season that seemed destined for something other than this on March 11, when the NBA stepped into the leadership void and did what had to be done.

5 — I’m sure folks will spend the coming days and weeks debating the merits of his move, what it means to his legacy and all the other minutiae that follows his name in every conversation. But can we stop for one second and admit that no athlete in recent memory, and perhaps ever, has done what he’s done? We’re talking about a man 17 years into an already illustrious, all-time outlandish Hall of Fame career, taking his third organization to the title. It doesn’t mean he’s the G.O.A.T. or whatever you want to call it, but he’s carved out a place for himself in that stratosphere where few others in the history of this or any organized, high-level competition have gone before.

4 — A thorough and dominant showing in a Game 6 that had to be won. Game 7 would have a totally different atmosphere, even in this bubble!

3 — Lakers celebrating outlasting the competition, 2020 (and the devastating loss of Kobe Bryant), COVID-19, a nation caught in the grips of social unrest and every other obstacle thrown their way in what goes down as the longest season in NBA history. Title No. 17 and LeBron James cementing his spot in Lakers’ lore …

2 — A decade between titles for the Lakers. Wonder how long it will be until their next one? And what about that Miami team? Was theirs just a bubble experience for them, a one-off, or the start of something else?

1 — Does the end justify the means for LeBron, AD, the Lakers, etc. I say yes. In a business where there is a finite amount of time to reach the top, to attain the highest level, it’s hard to argue this finish. As LeBron said in the postgame celebration on the court here at AdventHealth Arena, they all just want their “damn respect.” That fourth title and fourth Finals MVP is a great place to start for LeBron.

View this post on Instagram

🚨 JR SMITH IS ALREADY SHIRTLESS 🚨 #NBAFinals

A post shared by NBA on ESPN (@nbaonespn) on

https://twitter.com/RealBillRussell/status/1315475682453983232

* * *

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

Latest