Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Led by the superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers have eliminated the Denver Nuggets by virtue of a 4-1 series win in the Western Conference Finals.
Now, for the first time since 2010, the Lakers are headed back to the NBA Finals.
Their opponent? … Well, we don't know just yet, as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are still fully entrenched in the battle that is the Eastern Conference Finals.
A Boston win would give us another installment of one of the league's most historic rivalries while a Miami win would pit LeBron against his former team.
That being said, who do you think the Lakers would rather see: Boston or Miami?
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I think each team poses a different threat to the Lakers.
The Heat have a better matchup for Anthony Davis in Bam Adebayo, while Jimmy Butler is fearless and could mark LeBron James.
The Celtics don't have as clear-cut of a matchup for AD, but they do give the Lakers more headaches matchup-wise with scorers like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward.
I'm not sure there's a right or wrong answer here, but I'm going to say they'd prefer to take on Miami because if they're facing Boston, that means they're riding all the momentum in the world, winning three straight to reach the NBA Finals.
Would you agree? Or do you think having a clear matchup advantage for AD would sway the Lakers to wanting the Celtics?
McGregor: Man, I'm completely with you on the teams posing different threats. An the key part of that statement is that they each do pose a threat, as opposed to there being a clear-cut answer here.
So, the way I see it, the difference in who LA would rather see is probably in the margins.
That being said, I'm gonna ignore the momentum and say that the Lakers would rather face the Celtics because of the clear-cut advantage Anthony Davis would have over their bigs.
I think Miami would try to use a formula similar to what it used to eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks. Quite frankly, LA might not want any part of that.
Irving: In the Lakers' one close matchup with Boston this season, the Celtics threw a number of different bodies at Davis. Centre Daniel Theis handled the majority of the work, but they also tried a smaller defender in Brown, too.
Neither player had much success as Davis went off for 32 points and 13 rebounds, and that's enough of a reason for Los Angeles to want to avoid Adebayo. And like you said, the Heat already have somewhat of a blueprint for a player like Davis after going through Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Conference Semifinals.
But are we sure they're going to want to have to keep up with all four of those Celtics scorers on a nightly basis?
McGregor: I've had second - and third - thoughts about that already. Especially considering that in that same game where AD had 32 and 13, he was outdone by Tatum, who went off for 41 on 12-for-20 shooting.
☘️@jaytatum0 makes a statement with 41 points (tied career-high) pic.twitter.com/hdCbTKyW9S- Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 23, 2020
But you know, we've been saying it all postseason about LA:
- Are they ready for Dame and CJ?
- What about Russ and James?
- Jamal Murray's on a tear! Can they handle him?
And they found a way each time. The Celtics do pose a different threat, seeing as those guys - save for Kemba - have some serious size, but we might be downplaying the Lakers and Vogel. Where they lack in one-on-one defenders, they make up for with defensive schemes and overall IQ on the defensive end as a unit. It makes up for a lot of deficiencies.
Irving: Absolutely, and that brings me back to the point that the Lakers are playing so well that I'm not sure they really care who their opponent is. They're just taking care of business no matter who is in front of them so far these playoffs.
I also don't want to act like the Heat don't have the weapons the Celtics do. Butler, Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro ... the list goes on. They aren't all necessarily as consistent as Boston's threats, but Miami runs deeper with players who could potentially beat you.
MORE: How good will Herro be at his peak?
It also makes me wonder ... we've seen a lot of zone in that Eastern Conference Finals series. Do you think that's something that both teams would break out against the Lakers, trying to force guys like Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma etc. to beat you?
McGregor: Man, it's something about the unpredictability of those guys from Miami you named that LA should be wary of. Robinson and Herro just strike me as the types that end up not missing for a few games… Jae Crowder is a candidate for that, too
As for the defence, I definitely think each of those teams would try to employ the zone to force Green, KCP and Kuzma to hit shots. There's the chance that they get into that mode where they can't miss, but that's gotta be a chance you're willing to take.
We haven't seen LA lose too many times this postseason but in its three losses, Green, Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma are combining to average 25.0 points on 11-for-44 (25.0%) shooting from beyond the arc.
Seems like the formula.
Irving: It's much better to hope those three beat you than LeBron and AD.
Unfortunately for both teams, you know LeBron's going to bring a little extra regardless of the matchup. Obviously, he's going to take his game to another level in The Finals, as we've seen him do nine times now, but facing Boston or Miami makes it that much sweeter.
It would be poetic for James' first ring with the Lakers to come against their long-time rivals in the Celtics, and we all know there's no love lost between him and Boston.
With the Heat, it wouldn't be any less poetic for his first title with the Lakers to come against the franchise he earned his first-ever ring with.
Either way, it's shaping up as a potential win-win situation for The King.
McGregor: Honestly, if LeBron really does tap into another level - which is very plausible, considering he's this close to title No. 4 - I really don't think it matters who the Lakers end up facing.
Irving: Either way, the Lakers are going to enjoy kicking back and watching these teams battle for at least one more game, maybe two.
Whoever they face in The Finals, we're in for a well-deserved treat that we've been waiting for since last October.
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