2020 NBA Finals
The 2020 NBA Finals was the championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 2019–20 season and conclusion of the season's playoffs. In this best-of-seven playoff series, the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, 4–2, winning their first NBA championship in ten years. It was the franchise's 17th title, tying the Boston Celtics for the most in league history. The Lakers' LeBron James was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the fourth time in his career. He became the first player in league history to be named Finals MVP with three different franchises (two with the Heat, one with the Cleveland Cavaliers and one with the Lakers) and along with teammate Danny Green, jointly the third players to win the NBA Finals with three different teams. Lakers president Jeanie Buss became the first female controlling owner to guide her team to an NBA title.
The Lakers were the No. 1 seed in the West, while the Heat were No. 5 in the East, becoming the third-lowest seed to advance to the Finals. This was the first NBA Finals matchup between the two teams, and the first time that Finals participants had both missed the playoffs in the previous season. James had previously played with Miami under Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, winning back-to-back NBA titles in 2012 and 2013 in four consecutive Finals appearances from 2011 to 2014, while Heat president Pat Riley was head coach of the "Showtime"-era Lakers from 1981 to 1990, leading them to four NBA titles in seven Finals appearances. For the first time in six seasons, the Golden State Warriors were not in the Finals.
The Finals were originally scheduled for June, but the season was suspended in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA and its players later approved a plan to restart the season in late July, setting up the NBA Bubble at Walt Disney World to protect teams from the virus. The games were played in the Bubble behind closed doors at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Bay Lake, Florida, with the Finals being played from September 30 through October 11. This year's Finals was the latest to begin (beating the 1999 edition which began on June 16) and the first one played in September and October.
Season suspension and restart
On March 11, 2020, the NBA announced the suspension of the 2019–20 season following a report that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 just hours before the Jazz road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. On June 4, the NBA Board of Governors approved 29–1 (the Portland Trail Blazers were the lone dissenter) resuming the 2019–20 season at Walt Disney World. The National Basketball Players Association approved the plan a day later. Under the plan, thirteen Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams, which include all clubs within six games of a playoff spot, played eight regular-season "seeding" games. A possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed in each conference would then be held if the ninth seed finished the regular season within four games of the eighth seed (this play-in tournament was used in the Western conference only). The 2020 NBA playoffs were then played as a conventional post-season tournament.
During the off-season, the Heat agreed to a four-way trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Philadelphia 76ers to acquire All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler from the 76ers.
Miami began the season with two undrafted players in their starting lineup, Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson. In his first season with the Heat, Butler was named an All-Star for the fifth time in his career, and Bam Adebayo received his first selection, giving Miami two players in an All-Star Game for the first time since Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in the 2015–16 season. Before the season was suspended, the Heat clinched both their first playoff berth and Southeast Division title since the 2017–18 season. After the season resumed, they earned the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Heat swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, upset the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and defeated the 3rd-seed Boston Celtics in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals to become the first fifth-seeded team to reach the NBA Finals. Only three other times had a lower seed reached the Finals: the Houston Rockets at No. 6 in 1981 and 1995, and the No. 8 New York Knicks in 1999.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers were coming off of a disappointing season in 2018–19 in which they extended their playoff drought which began in 2014. Their major free agent acquisition, LeBron James, suffered the first major injury in his career, and he missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. On the final day of the season, Magic Johnson resigned as president of basketball operations, and head coach Luke Walton and the team mutually agreed to part ways a few days later. During the offseason, general manager Rob Pelinka hired Frank Vogel as the Lakers' new head coach, and he acquired six-time All-Star power forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in a three-way trade that also included the Washington Wizards. Pelinka was promoted to vice president of basketball operations in January 2020, while still retaining his GM role. Later in the month, legendary former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna and seven others. The Lakers dedicated the season to him.
The Lakers clinched their first playoff berth since the 2012–13 season in March 2020, days before the season was suspended. It ended the longest drought in the franchise's history. After play resumed in the bubble, the Lakers clinched both their first Pacific Division title since 2012 and the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since the 2009–10 season. James and Davis were runner-ups for the NBA Most Valuable Player and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, respectively, behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, and both were named to the All-NBA First Team.
The Lakers needed five games each to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs, the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers reached the Finals for the first time since 2010, while James was making his ninth trip in 10 seasons.
Road to the Finals
Regular season series
The Lakers won the regular season series 2–0.
|Miami Heat 98, Los Angeles Lakers 116|
|Scoring by quarter: 28–31, 20–34, 19–28, 31–23|
|Pts: Jimmy Butler 23|
Rebs: Olynyk, Iguodala, Nunn 5 each
Asts: Andre Iguodala 6
|Pts: Anthony Davis 34|
Rebs: LeBron James 13
Asts: LeBron James 9
|Los Angeles leads series, 1–0|
The Lakers' Anthony Davis had 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists in his first Finals game, and LeBron James added 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists to lead Los Angeles to a 116–98 win over Miami. The Heat led 23–10 in the middle of the first quarter before the Lakers outscored them 55–25 to lead by 17 at halftime. The Lakers expanded their lead to as high as 32 points in the third quarter. They made 13 of their first 20 three-point field goals in the game before cooling off and missing 16 of their last 18.
Miami's Jimmy Butler twisted his left ankle before the end of the first half, but he remained in the game and finished with 23 points. Heat guard Goran Dragić did not play in the second half due to a foot injury. Miami center Bam Adebayo also did not finish the game after exiting in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. Dwight Howard remained as the Lakers' starting center after he moved into the starting lineup for the last few games of the conference finals against Denver.
|Miami Heat 114, Los Angeles Lakers 124|
|Scoring by quarter: 23–29, 31–39, 39–35, 21–21|
|Pts: Jimmy Butler 25|
Rebs: Kelly Olynyk 9
Asts: Jimmy Butler 13
|Pts: LeBron James 33|
Rebs: Anthony Davis 14
Asts: Rajon Rondo 10
|Los Angeles leads series, 2–0|
James scored 33 points and Davis added 32, leading the Lakers to a 2–0 series lead with a 124–114 win over the Heat. James and Davis were the first Lakers teammates to score 30 points in a Finals game since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in Game 3 of the 2002 NBA Finals. The team shot 51% for the game and made 22 of their first 25 two-point field goals, including a stretch of 16 straight towards the end of the first period through late in the third. Davis made 14 of his first 15 shots. Miami played short-handed without their injured starters Adebayo (neck and left shoulder) and Dragić (torn left plantar fascia).
The Lakers led by six points after the first quarter even though they made just three of 12 three-point attempts. Trailing by 14 at the half, the Heat scored 39 points in the third period but still were down 10 entering the fourth. They never got closer than 10 in the final period. Rajon Rondo had 16 points, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma also added 11 for the Lakers. The Lakers made 16 out of a season-high 47 three-pointers. Their starters made just seven of 28 with Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green combining to make three of 19. The team made 66% of its two-point attempts.
Miami was led by Butler with 25 points and Kelly Olynyk with 24 off the bench. Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard replaced Dragić and Adebayo in the starting lineup. Herro became the youngest player to start an NBA Finals game at 20 years, 256 days. He was eight days younger than Magic Johnson was when he started Game 1 for the Lakers in 1980 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
|Los Angeles Lakers 104, Miami Heat 115|
|Scoring by quarter: 23–26, 31–32, 26–27, 24–30|
|Pts: LeBron James 25|
Rebs: LeBron James 10
Asts: LeBron James 8
|Pts: Jimmy Butler 40|
Rebs: Jimmy Butler 11
Asts: Jimmy Butler 13
|Los Angeles leads series, 2–1|
Butler finished with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for a triple-double to lead Miami to a 115–104 win as Heat starters Adebayo and Dragić remained sidelined. Miami led for most of the game. At multiple points, they looked to be taking control of the game, but the Lakers would answer. The Heat led by 13 in the first quarter before the Lakers rallied to take the lead five minutes later. Miami began the second half with a 10–0 run to lead by 14, but Los Angeles responded with eight straight points. The Heat were up 12 late in the third quarter before the Lakers outscored them 20–6 to regain the lead 91–89 with 8:55 remaining in the game. However, the Heat outscored the Lakers 26–13 to finish the game and cut the Lakers' lead to 2–1.
Butler became the third player in Finals history to record a 40+ point triple-double, joining James (then with the Cleveland Cavaliers) in 2015 and Jerry West with the Lakers in 1969. Butler also became the first player to have more points, rebounds and assists in a Finals game than James, who finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Davis, who was in foul trouble early, was held to just 15 points and five rebounds. The Lakers committed 20 turnovers, which led to 21 points for the Heat. Los Angeles had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, the most of any team in the league during the season in the first period, including eight combined by James and Davis, who ended the game with eight and five turnovers, respectively. Herro and Olynyk both scored 17 points for Miami, while Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris both had 19 points off the bench for the Lakers. Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starters 89–51.
|Los Angeles Lakers 102, Miami Heat 96|
|Scoring by quarter: 27–22, 22–25, 26–23, 27–26|
|Pts: LeBron James 28|
Rebs: LeBron James 12
Asts: LeBron James 8
|Pts: Jimmy Butler 22|
Rebs: Jimmy Butler 10
Asts: Jimmy Butler 9
|Los Angeles leads series, 3–1|
Davis made a 3-pointer with 39.5 seconds remaining to give the Lakers a nine-point lead and securing the game en route to a 102–96 win and a 3–1 lead over the Heat. James had 28 points, eight assists and 12 rebounds, while Davis finished with 22 points, four assists and nine rebounds. Los Angeles was sloppy again with nine first-half turnovers, including five by James alone. With 8:18 remaining in the third quarter, James made a 3-pointer which put the Lakers ahead 55–54. The Lakers did not trail for the final 20 minutes, though Miami would remain close throughout. With 3:05 left in the game, Butler shot a corner 3-pointer that rimmed out which would have given the Heat the lead. Seven seconds later, Caldwell-Pope made a corner 3 to give the Lakers a 93–88 lead. Miami then committed a shot-clock violation, and Caldwell-Pope drove for a basket for a seven-point lead.
Caldwell-Pope contributed 15 points and Green scored 10 for the Lakers. Butler ended with 22 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds for the Heat. He made his first five shots for 11 points in the first quarter but did not make another field goal until the fourth quarter while being guarded by Davis and James. Herro had 21 points, Duncan Robinson scored 17 and Adebayo added 15 for the Heat after missing two games.
|Miami Heat 111, Los Angeles Lakers 108|
|Scoring by quarter: 25–24, 35–32, 28–26, 23–26|
|Pts: Jimmy Butler 35|
Rebs: Jimmy Butler 12
Asts: Jimmy Butler 11
|Pts: LeBron James 40|
Rebs: LeBron James 13
Asts: LeBron James 7
|Los Angeles leads series, 3–2|
Butler had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to lead Miami to a 111–108 win and stave off elimination, bringing the series to 3–2. The Heat weathered a dominant performance by James, who ended with 40 points on just 21 shots, 13 rebounds and seven assists. With the Lakers down by one and 18.8 seconds remaining in the game, James drove into the paint, where he was surrounded by Butler and Robinson with a third defender also approaching. James passed to a wide-open Green at the top of the key, but Green missed a 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds left. Morris got the offensive rebound, pump-faked, but then threw the ball out of bounds with 2.2 seconds remaining in an attempt to get the ball to Davis under the basket.
With 48 seconds left in the first quarter, Davis was kicked by Miami's Andre Iguodala in his right heel, which aggravated a contusion he received in the conference finals. After lying on the floor for minutes, Davis exited the game and began the second quarter on the bench, which helped the Heat amass a 11-point lead. The Lakers drew close to make it 60–56 at the half. Caldwell-Pope, who scored 16 points, made a 3-pointer to give the Lakers the lead in the fourth quarter. With 3:13 remaining, Robinson made a three-pointer to give the Heat a two-point lead, which began a run of either a tie or a lead change on the game's next nine scoring possessions, including six straight where James and Butler traded scores.
Robinson ended with 26 points, including seven 3-pointers, which broke Gary Neal's record set in 2013 for most 3's by an undrafted player in the Finals. Butler was exhausted towards the end, having rested just 48 seconds all game while also guarding James and sometimes Davis on defense. He became the second player with multiple 30-point triple-doubles in the same Finals series, joining James in 2015. Butler was the sixth player with multiple triple-doubles in the same Finals series along with James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Draymond Green. He also became the first with 35 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals in a Finals game, and he was just the second NBA player to reach those marks in the playoffs, joining Gary Payton in 2000. Davis scored 28 points and added 12 rebounds for the Lakers. By the end of the game, he was noticeably limping after another tumble around the basket. He and James scored 68 of the team's 108 points. They combined to shoot 24 for 36, while the other Lakers were 14 for 46.
|Los Angeles Lakers 106, Miami Heat 93|
|Scoring by quarter: 28–20, 36–16, 23–22, 19–35|
|Pts: LeBron James 28|
Rebs: Anthony Davis 15
Asts: LeBron James 10
|Pts: Bam Adebayo 25|
Rebs: Bam Adebayo 10
Asts: Jimmy Butler 8
|Los Angeles wins the series, 4–2|
James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Lakers to a 106–93 win for their 17th league championship in franchise history and first since 2010. James was named the Finals MVP for the fourth time in his career. Winning the fourth championship of his career, he became the only player in NBA history to have been named Finals MVP with three different franchises. He won the award in a unanimous 11–0 vote.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel decided to start with a smaller, quicker lineup, inserting guard Alex Caruso for Howard and moving Davis to center. Los Angeles never trailed in the game and ended the first quarter ahead 28–20. They outscored Miami 36–16 in the second period and led by as many as 30 points in the first half. The Lakers' 64–36 halftime lead was the second-largest margin at halftime in Finals history, behind a 30-point lead by Boston over the Lakers in Game 1 in 1985. The Lakers also became the first NBA team to be undefeated in a season when leading entering the fourth quarter, going a combined 57–0 in the regular season and playoffs.
Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds. Adebayo led Miami with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Butler was held to only 12 points, but added eight assists and seven rebounds. Dragić, who returned from his Game 1 injury, had five points off the bench on 2 of 8 shooting along with five rebounds in 19 minutes.
James ended the series averaging 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game. He and Davis became the first teammates in NBA history to both average 25 points and shoot 50% from the field in the same postseason. Butler became only the second player in a Finals series to lead his team outright in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, joining James in 2016 with the Cavaliers.
With the Dodgers winning the World Series later in the month, Los Angeles repeated its achievement of having NBA and World Series champions in the same year, as both the Lakers and Dodgers had won in 1988.
|2019–20 Los Angeles Lakers roster|
|2019–20 Miami Heat roster|
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
- Bold: team high
Game 5 of the Finals was the first NBA game to be aired on China Central Television (CCTV) in China since the disagreement between the NBA and that country over the Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweet in support of the Hong Kong anti-government protesters. NBA games had remained available for streaming on Tencent.
The 2020 NBA Finals continued the trend of declining viewership, with 7.41 million people watching Game 1, making it the lowest rated and least-watched NBA Finals game on record (tracking viewership started in 1988). It aired opposite two Major League Baseball playoff games. The drop followed the shift in other sporting events rescheduled from their traditional times of year, such as the Stanley Cup Finals, Kentucky Derby, U.S. Open (golf) and Indianapolis 500. The viewership further declined to a new record low of 6.609 million for Game 2. Despite the lows, both Game 1 and Game 2 were the most watched program for their respective days. Game 3, which aired opposite NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage, had its viewership continue to decrease to a new record low of approximately 5.94 million.
The local victory parade for the Lakers was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti stated on October 28, the day after the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, that there would be separate public celebrations for both teams, though it was uncertain how mandated social distancing would be addressed.