BY DAVID THORPE
The Los Angeles Lakers entered these bubble playoffs as the West’s top seed, and cruised to a 12-3 record and the Finals. It’s not quite the 2017 Warriors, but it is a rare kind of dominance that generally predicts a title.
But there’s something in the water in Orlando, because the Heat arrive here with the exact same playoff record, despite having already faced the higher-ranked Celtics and the regular season’s best team—the Bucks.
More than any other team, the Heat illustrate that everything is different after the layoff. Before this season began, I thought they’d struggle to win half their games, and barely make the playoffs. Then the layoff, for many teams, taxed cohesion and slick teamwork. But somehow it made the Heat even better at those things. Miami was easily the sharpest offensive team in the seeding games, in terms of executing their system.
Now we have what looks to be the Lakers’ sharpest test. The fairest fight of all. Beating the Bucks and Celtics is proof …