A few years back my wife yelled out to me that there was a big rat out in our backyard. Intrigued, I looked out and saw what did indeed look like a giant rat. It was just hanging out by the fence, maybe 10 feet from our back door; didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I figured I would go outside and scare it off so as to not concern my wife. The animal was not a giant rat, of course, it was an opossum. My thought was to open the door and then stomp my feet. Opening the door would be enough to scare it off, right?
I opened the door and the opossum did nothing. Literally didn’t even acknowledge my existence. I took a step closer, still nothing. Then, I stomped my feet and made a loud noise. That got it’s attention. But, instead of scurrying off, which I thought was the logical thing for it to do when faced with an alpha predator, the opossum slowly looked up at me. It was the kinda gesture someone makes when you upset them, you know what I mean? The slow head tilt up which was then followed by the loudest screech I’ve ever heard. Full teeth, snarly, etc.
It seems I upset the opossum.
I calmly walked back inside, shut the door and started working on plan B after telling my wife I scared the giant rat away! Moral of the story, and lesson I learned that night, a cornered animal is always dangerous. Even more so if they are hurt. In this scenario, the Lakers are me, the Heat are the cornered and injured opossum.
Thank you for indulging me.
The Heat came to game 2 missing their leading scorer in the playoffs, Goran Dragic and arguably their best defender in Bam Adebayo. Imagine having to play a game without your best offensive and defensive player. The Heat were cornered, hurt and in no mood to deal with some bozo stomping his feet. Lucky for the Lakers, they were much more prepared for the Miami Opossums than I was for the one I encountered.
The Heat played several players who, up to that point, had seen little to no time on the court during the playoffs. Meyers Leonard, Kelly Olynyk, Kendrick Nunn and Solomon Hill all played and actually weren’t that bad. In fact, they had 44 points and 13 rebounds combined. The problem for the Heat in game 2 was not the supporting cast that was called into emergency duty. Instead, it was continued lack of the type of production they had become used to from their two sharp shooters, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro.
Those two combined to make three 3 pointers out of 10 attempts. That will simply not get it done for this team.
Of course, another problem for the Heat is that the Lakers employ LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Those two were as spectacular as we have come to expect. Anthony had 32 points while James chipped in 33. If a players career is a hill with the players best years as the top, James, at 35 years of age, would normally be seen as on the wrong end of that hill. What he’s doing on the court continues to defy logic though. In a very real way he has stretched the top of that hill. Of course, James has been here in the Finals before, Anthony has not. Some were curious and even concerned about what his level of play would be like in his very first NBA Finals.
No need to be concerned.
In addition to amazing play from their stars, the teams defense is incredible when it needs to be. The role players are contributing, Rajon Rondo had 16 points and 10 assists while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma each chipped in 11 points. Alex “The X-Factor” Caruso continues to do whatever is needed at that time for this team. You need a defensive stop, got it. You need a big shot, OK. How about a spectacular assist, no problem. Alex Caruso is the closest thing the Lakers have had to Michael Cooper since Michael Cooper.
The Heat will continue to snarl, show their teeth and come after the Lakers. There is no expectation that the 2020 Finals Championship will be handed to the Lakers. They will have to earn it. After some thought, I went back outside, grabbed the hose and pointed it at the opossum. I didn’t douse the him or her, but I sprayed a little water close enough to it to scare it off. Plan B worked for me. For the Lakers and their coaching staff they are going to continue to have make adjustments, something Coach Vogel and staff have shown to be very willing to do, to bring this Finals victory home.
They are in the drivers seat and very well equipped to take on their opossum.
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!