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LeBron James ‘championship formula: Lakers’ suffocating defense and an explosion of his past in the Heat

When LeBron James played for the Miami Heat, they called them skirmishes. Few stops, a few dunks in transition and a game change. It happens quickly and without warning, like an earthquake. James’s team is energized, the opponent demoralized.

To beat a team led by James typically requires discipline. Mistakes on the offensive side turn into easy baskets on the other side, slumped shoulders and pointed fingers. In Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals, the Heat were on the wrong side of the skirmish.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ lead was only four points with a minute and a half left in the first quarter. Less than a minute after the second, it was 1

1 o’clock and Miami was starting to wear out. The skirmish, however, began in earnest when Anthony Davis dismissed a layup from Kendrick Nunn four and a half minutes before half-time. The block led to an absurd e-1 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the start of an 18-2 run that gave the Lakers a 30-point lead.

Throughout the season, Los Angeles feasted on turnovers. To take the championship on Sunday, he put Alex Caruso in the starting lineup, knocked Dwight Howard out of the rotation and increased the defensive pressure. Miami’s offense, so beautiful at its best, suddenly appeared stagnant, a result of the Lakers’ disruptive defense as much as of his tired legs. The Heat shot the ball on more than a fifth of their assets in the first half, and every time they missed around the edge, Los Angeles ran down the field to punish them.

Caruso called it “the epitome of Lakers basketball”. Kyle Kuzma described it as “crazy”, “incredible” and “probably the most we have ever been stuck in during the season”.

“We were all over the place,” said Los Angeles manager Frank Vogel. “We executed our covers perfectly. And we did it with energy, passion and active hands, and we bounced basketball. And that controlled the whole game because, with our ability on the break, we are getting stops without fail, others teams did not have any chance with us to come out on the break “.

More than a full calendar year ago, Vogel told the Lakers he wanted them to be the most physical team in the NBA. They defined themselves with their defense, in stark contrast to any of James’s teams since leaving Miami in 2014: during the regular season, they were communicative, connected and committed to getting stops, and the teams that failed to turn back against them they got burned. They finished third in the defensive standings and third in the opponent’s turnover rate and, according to Cleaning The Glass, first in transition attack.

Some foolish people thought Los Angeles wouldn’t even make it to the finals. His Achilles heel should have been a midfield attack, as the Lakers finished 19th in that category in the regular season. It wasn’t just the fact that their footage was suspicious and their perimeter direction fell almost entirely to James and Rajon Rondo, it was that their offense didn’t sing as the more aesthetically pleasing do. Los Angeles didn’t jump from action to action like its opponent in the Finals. He didn’t cause chaos and confusion with the off-ball movement. The Lakers could produce advantages and open shots against fixed defenses, but they didn’t make it look easy.

Los Angeles’ solution to this was simple: make life completely miserable for the opposing offense and run like hell.

Unlike their opponents in the playoffs, the Lakers did not have a guard who could regularly do 35-foot pull-ups or three step-backs, nor did they have teams that selected the center point. Their midfield offensive improved in the playoffs, but even in the finals it was sometimes cut short. It wasn’t exactly unpredictable, and it didn’t reflect a broader trend in where the NBA is heading.

The Los Angeles defense, however, does. He wouldn’t have made it through the second round if he hadn’t put his traditional big names on the bench and hadn’t played Davis exclusively in the center, where he is a disruptive force like in the league, the same move that Vogel made in match 6 of the finals. The Lakers didn’t have to look like the Heat because they could stop the Heat from looking like the Heat. All season they had reduced the floor, closed the passageways and made the stars uncomfortable. They knew exactly who they were.

“You can have a talented team, even a defensive talented team, but if everyone doesn’t work together and not everyone is caught up and seeing the value of being able to choke an opponent and take his strength away, you won’t go there to reach that level. “said Vogel. “But our kids saw the value very early on. They accepted.”

Sunday’s second quarter skirmish was part of a 41-15 streak that began at the end of the first quarter. If the onslaught felt familiar, it was because the Lakers did something similar in Game 1. Miami started the series at a pace and took an early lead, but it all turned upside down about six minutes later. Davis moved into the center and the Lakers finished the first quarter on a 19-3 that turned into an absurd 75-30 sprint.

Later, James said they did it by playing more physically and with more attention to detail.

“We started playing at our best,” he said. “We started flying around. We started getting defensive stops.”

Story of the season.

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