Leading the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals 3-1, the Los Angeles Lakers are now just one win away from claiming their 17th championship. If they walk away as victors, the Lakers will be tied with the Boston Celtics for the most championships in league history.
Let's look at four bold predictions for Friday night's Game 5 matchup.
1. AD dominates
Anthony Davis, who is seeking his first NBA title, has proven to be an essential piece of the Lakers' rotation. The former Kentucky Wildcat joined the team prior to the start of this season, and it quickly became evident that he was the proverbial sidekick that LeBron James needed to drive the Lake Show on a push for the playoffs.
Davis has been much more than a mere sidekick, though. He was solid in the regular season, averaging 26.1 points and 9.3 rebounds. His offensive prowess has really shone through in the playoffs, though. He's had several big nights in this series, including a 32-point outing in Game 2 and a 34-point effort in Game 1. He had 22 points and nine rebounds in Tuesday's Game 4 victory.
And let's not forget about the dagger three that Davis hit over Heat forward Bam Adebayo in the closing seconds of Game 4:
“Big-time shot. Big-time play for our team to be able to put the game away,” LeBro James said of Anthony Davis' big shot in Game 4, via ESPN.
Our prediction: Davis has a big night on both ends of the floor, racking up a 30-point double-double to go with a pair of blocks.
2. The King's court
Several players have stepped up for the Lakers throughout their postseason run. Rajon Rondo, for instance, has proven that he can still be a leader in this league. He often runs the offense when James is seated on the bench for a rest—a task he's taken to heart.
And how about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a player who was once ridiculed by Lakers fans? All of sudden, the 27-year-old guard has become a key piece of the rotation, and he has delivered some big shots in times of need. Markieff Morris, Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma have had their moments as well.
LeBron and AD are going to need a bit of help from these role players in Game 5, as the Heat will likely be looking to limit their production.
Our prediction: The Lakers' bench scores 30-plus.
3. Buckets for Butler
Jimmy Butler (45-plus minutes in the last two games) has been forced to step up his level of play even further in the wake of injuries to his team's roster. Bam Adebayo missed one game due to a neck ailment, but he returned to play in Game 4. Goran Dragic is still out with a foot injury, and it looks like he won't be playing in Game 5.
For this reason, we're looking for a monster night from Butler, who is currently leading his team in nearly every offensive category known to man. The former Marquette Golden Eagle posted a 40-point triple-double in Game 3, which was Miami's lone victory in the series. However, he had a series-low 22 points in Game 4.
Per NBA: Jimmy Butler is the third player to record a 40-point triple-double in an NBA Finals game, joining LeBron James (Game 5 in 2015) and Jerry West (Game 7 in 1969).
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) October 5, 2020
Our prediction: Jimmy Butler dishes out 40 points in a near triple-double performance. He's capable of doing it again, and the Heat will likely need it.
4. LeBron's legacy
Though the players in the bubble are enduring irregular circumstances, LeBron James has maintained a high level of focus with regards to his championship aspirations for the Lakers. Interestingly enough, his first two titles came with the Heat as a member of their big three (Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James). Then, after making a decision to return home to Northeast Ohio in 2014, he delivered the Cavaliers their first championship in franchise history (2016). Cavs fans remember exactly where they were in that moment, as it ended a 52-year title drought for the city of Cleveland.
James is hoping to bring that same magic back to the Lakers, who have not been in the Finals since 2010. If he can do it, he'll join John Salley and Robert Horry as the only players in NBA history to win championships with three different teams.
It's not a foregone conclusion that the Lakers will win, but having LeBron on the roster certainly helps in closeout games. The former No. 1 overall pick has won 17 of his last 18 games with a chance to clinch the series—a 94 percent winning percentage.
Our prediction: LeBron James facilitates his way to a 25-point triple-double, finding his teammates for 10-plus assists.
Game 5 is set to tip at 9:00 p.m. ET on Friday night, with ABC having live broadcast coverage. The Lakers have elected to wear their “Black Mamba” jerseys for the matchup in honor of the late Kobe Bryant.