It’s crunch time in the Bubble. Will LeBron clinch his fourth championship, or will Erik Spoelstra’s Heat have something to say about it in the 2020 NBA Finals? Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan tells all ahead of Game 1 this Thursday.
When do the NBA Finals begin?
The NBA Finals will begin on Thursday 1st October with the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Miami Heat for the first time ever in the NBA Finals.
How are games being scheduled for the NBA Finals?
Beginning on October 1st, the best-of-seven series will have two-day intervals between each game. Should either side ‘sweep’ the other with four straight wins in the opening fixtures, the series will conclude on Wednesday 7th October. The latest possible date the Larry O’Brien trophy could be lifted would be Wednesday October 14th in Game 7.
Are teams playing at their own arenas for the NBA Finals?
Unfortunately, not. The NBA’s solution to getting on with the season amidst the Coronavirus pandemic is a ‘bubble’ of three venues in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, with only select family members of players and coaches allowed in. Players are contained and living in the ‘bubble’ for the season’s rest to prevent an outbreak across the league. Fans will tune in to the action on TV or by streaming live online.
What time will tip off be for the first game in the NBA Finals?
The first game of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat (1st October), tips off 2:00am BST. Tip off times throughout the series will vary from 00:30am and 2:00am BST.
What is the state of play ahead of the NBA Finals?
The Los Angeles Lakers make their first NBA Finals birth in ten years, taking on an unfamiliar foe in the Miami Heat. Overcoming the Denver Nuggets in a routine 4-1 series, the Lakers’ success can be attributed mainly to possessing two of the top five players in the league in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Miami’s journey to the NBA Finals has been far from customary. As fifth seed and 70/1 pre-season favourites to take the crown, the Erik Spoelstra and co. have taken down the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
The obvious topic of conversation would be LeBron winning his first Championship in LA against Spoelstra, with whom he won his first two pieces of silverware. But how did we get to this point?
The NBA returned on 30th July with a reduced number of teams and fixture schedule in wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. All matches since then have taken place in the ESPN Wide World of Sport Complex in Disneyland, Florida, and will continue to do so for the season’s remainder.
The pre-bubble standings in the league saw little to play for at the top end of each conference, with only a matter of a few wins needed for the likes of the Bucks and the Lakers to secure their respective seeds. Shocks in terms of final finishes in the league were few, with the injury-stricken Golden State Warriors missing out on the NBA playoffs for the first time in five years. The tail end of the seedings, particularly in the Western conference, is where most attention was drawn.
All the way back in July, the ‘Play-In’ game for eighth seed saw Bubble MVP Damian Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies and qualify for the Playoffs. The likes of the Phoenix Suns missed out on the postseason despite an unblemished 8-0 record. The Oregon outfit were soon to meet their demise when encountering the Lakers, despite taking a game off Frank Vogel’s team.
The first round offered very few shock results, with the Heat continuing their impressive three regular season wins against the Pacers in a swept series, while Game 7’s were forced with the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets emerging victorious from their respective ties.
Another brace of Game 7’s took place in the semis, none of them involving the Lakers or Heat, as the former defeated an unassuming Rockets in five games while a shock 4-1 series win over the Bucks brought attention to Pat Riley’s project. A Gordon Hayward-less Celtics did their best to make a series against a team with much greater depth in Miami, as the Nuggets couldn’t strike gold thrice and fell in five games.
And there you have it. Miami was the surprise ticket from the East. Lakers tipped as the red-hot favourite hailing from the West. The one guarantee? It will be a scintillating series for the neutral.
What have been the big talking points in the NBA this season?
- Dynamic Duo: ‘It’s exciting to have such a beautiful young mind and beautiful player’ exclaimed LeBron James upon Anthony Davis Jr’s arrival from New Orleans at the season’s beginning. The strength of the pairing, both in differing stages of their careers, have formed the bedrock of many milestones so far this season for the Lakers, including their 17-2 start. Both will hope they can reach the ultimate peak with a Finals victory.
- Contenders’ Disappointment in Both Conferences: The Bucks and the Clippers. Two of the best led by some of the best ballers in the league, including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, respectively. What happened? Both went out in their Conference’s semi-finals, in a year where both could have faced off for the ultimate prize- the Bucks falling to a 4-1 loss to the Miami Heat, while the Clippers choked a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets.
- Cream of the New Crop: Ja Morant is looking to take the Rookie of the Year crown after a scintillating first campaign for the Memphis Grizzlies. The point guard, who played the last stretch of the season with a broken thumb, notching 18 PPG in the said time period. His competitor for the title, Zion Williamson, too garnered plaudits but had a season-stunting operation on the night before the first throw in of the season that prevented his true impact being realised over the course of the season. Luka Doncic is already thinking of throwing his name into the hat for potential future MVP candidates and has been the driving force to the Dallas Mavericks’ first postseason berth in four years.
- Just not their year… yet: Both of the losers in the Conference Finals look to have promising futures. But this postseason was a step too far. The Nuggets couldn’t pull off an unprecedented three peat of 3-1 comeback series wins against the Lakers, and the Heat’s strength in depth and consistency in a 4-2 loss undid Boston. The Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics boast a plethora of future MVP candidates in the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Jayson Tatum.
- Small Ball: The bastions of the new evolution of basketball, known as ‘Small Ball’, comes in the form of the Houston Rockets. The key principle is of sacrificing height and power for speed and three point ability. The success of the philosophy has been none more so clear than in the recent Golden State Warriors dynasty, but with the ‘Splash’ brothers out for this season, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and co. have adopted the title, particularly in the bubble.
- Kobe Bryant RIP: The game lost one of its brightest stars in January. Kobe Bryant and eight others perished in a helicopter accident, including his daughter Gianna. The LA derby game, originally scheduled for the day Bryant passed, was postponed and played five days later. Tributes in the form of 8 and 24 second violations, in remembrance of Bryant and his shirt numbers, were enacted all over the league.
- Black Lives Matter Movement: The tragic murder of George Floyd has stirred a yearning for social justice around the world, highlighting inequalities within society and need for change. The NBA and its players have used their platform to give the movement a voice, from player donations to personalised messages on the back of shirts.
Who are the top players in the running for NBA Finals MVP?
- LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers – The four-time MVP is in the hunt for his fourth NBA Championship, with lieutenant Anthony Davis Jr. by his side in LA. Injury plagued his first season with the franchise, and with the help of the aforementioned Davis, LeBron is back to his best – with the veteran leading the league in assists for the first time in his career (10.2). LeBron’s Lakers are favourites to pick up the Larry O’Brien trophy.
- Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers – The other half of the terrific twosome at the Staples Center this season is the former New Orleans Pelicans big man. Davis hit a game-winning buzzer beater against the Denver Nuggets to double their lead to 2-0 in the series, with coach Frank Vogel describing it as ‘a shot Kobe Bryant would hit’. Davis, who has hit 26 points and 9 rebounds this season, takes on what pundits believe as the biggest test yet in Bam Adebayo. The clashing styles of the counterparts is billed as the ultimate on-court battle in the war that will be the NBA Finals.
- Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat – The controversial swingman arrived from the Philadelphia 76ers last summer in a sign and trade deal. Butler has fit like a glove in Erik Spoelstra’s system, adapting well in a roster of varying ages and experience. Butler, with the help of Andre Iguodala and coach Spoelstra, have all played a part in the last nine NBA Finals.
- Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat – Arguably the Heat’s best and literally biggest player in their run to the finals, Adebayo is looking to be the future of the South Beach franchise at the tender age of just 23. The centre notched a career-high 32 points in the decisive Game 6 against the Celtics, along with 14 rebounds and five assists. Adebayo’s ability as a two-way player, along with his defending in the perimeter and the paint will have him in with a shout of MVP, especially if he comes out better off against the might of Davis.
Can I bet on NBA Finals with Mark Jarvis?
Yes, you can bet on the NBA Finals. At Mark Jarvis, we provide over 15 different NBA markets for the NBA Finals. We also have our NBA Finals Outright Winner market, in which the Los Angeles Lakers are currently the favourites at 1/4* ahead of the Heat at 3/1* to go all the way. For NBA Finals markets, click here.
*Odds as of time of writing (Monday 28th September 2020) and subject to change
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