Coming into Wednesday night’s Game 1, basketball fans were waiting to see how the 2020 NBA Finals unfolded. Could the Miami Heat continue their magical run? Would LeBron James add another playoff success to his resume? As the game unfolded, though, things seemed pretty black and white; the Lakers cruised to a victory, and Stephen A. Smith was compelled to send a grim warning about the Heat’s chances in the rest of the series.
While Wednesday night’s performance comes with an obvious caveat—it was one game out of a potential seven—Stephen A. is still concerned. He fears that the Heat’s playoffs could end not with a bang, but a whimper.
The magical Miami Heat looked human in Game 1
When the NBA teams entered the Orland bubble, the LA Lakers were supposed to compete for the championship; the Miami Heat were not. During Game 1, that’s exactly how things looked on the court.
While the Heat had some great success in the postseason, grinding out victories over the Bucks and Celtics, they simply looked human on Wednesday night. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler are talented players, but they couldn’t go toe-to-toe with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That duo combined for 59 points on the night, as the Lakers cruised to a 116-98 victory.
To make matters worse for the Miami Heat, both Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo suffered injuries during the course of their defeat. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Dragic “suffered a plantar tear of left foot;” the Heat confirmed that Adebayo’s shoulder X-rays were negative, but didn’t offer much clarity beyond that. While neither player has been officially ruled out for any amount of time, their injuries won’t make anything easier for the Heat.
Stephen A. Smith fears that a sweep could be imminent
Coming into the NBA Finals, Stephen A. Smith picked the LA Lakers to claim the title in six games. After Game 1, however, he feared that the series could be over even more quickly.
“[The Miami Heat are] in a world of trouble. They’re on the verge of getting swept if they don’t get their act together,” Smith explained. “The level of domination that you saw from the Los Angeles Lakers tonight should tell you a story. Miami goes on a 13-0 run, jumps out to a 23-10 lead, and then, the next thing you know, they end up getting outscored like 55-25 and, at one point, they were outscored by 40 over the course of two and a half quarters. That is an annihilation. That is a butt-whipping.”
While Smith made reference to the 1985 Lakers, who lost Game 1 of the finals by 34 points before coming back to win the championship, he isn’t expecting similar heroics from this Miami Heat squad.
“These Miami Heat don’t resemble those Lakers in any kind of way whatsoever,” Stephen A. continued. “It almost looks like it was a nice run, we applaud you for your efforts, but it ends now. That’s the kind of beatdown they got tonight. I’ll give them an opportunity in Game 2 to make amends, but I can assure you that I speak for a lot of people in America when we say we’re fearful that a sweep is imminent. We hope not, cause we like competition, but we’re fearful.”
Can the Miami Heat prove Stephen A. Smith wrong?
On a visceral level, it’s tough to disagree with Stephen A. Smith; if you watched Game 1, it seemed like the Miami Heat were simply overmatched. A sweep, however, isn’t a foregone conclusion.
If you’re a numbers-lover, 538 still gives the Heat a 53% chance of winning the series; while that might seem optimistic after Wednesday night, it still suggests that they’re more than capable of winning at least one game. Sports cliches also support Miami’s chances of avoiding a sweep. Conventional wisdom states that, if they’re facing elimination, the Heat players’ collective pride will help them fight that extra bit harder.
With all of that being said, though, the Miami Heat are in a tough spot; they looked overmatched in Game 1 and, pending the injury report, could be playing the rest of the series short of 100%. Even if a sweep isn’t imminent, Stephen A. Smith has a valid point: things aren’t looking pretty.