Tonight’s matchup involves two fan bases that were bored during last year’s playoffs as the Heat and Lakers were at home, with Miami finishing with a 39-43 record while Los Angeles finished 37-45. It’s the first time two teams are meeting in the Finals that didn’t qualify for the postseason the year prior.
This series also features two franchises that have a lot in common. Heat President Pat Riley will be facing the team he once coached to four titles. LeBron James is squaring off against the franchise that helped him win two titles, two MVPs, and two Finals MVPs. And Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is returning to the Finals for the fifth time where he will face James, the best player he’s ever coached.
The Heat, ranked fifth in the East, now join the ‘95 Rockets (No. 6) and the ‘99 Knicks (No. 8) as the only teams seeded fifth or lower to make it to the Finals since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams. Like the Heat, the Knicks made it in a shortened season as that was the year the lockout happened with a regular season that only lasted 50 games.
The Lakers will be playing in their 32nd NBA Finals (16-15 record), which is the most in league history. It’s their first Finals appearance since Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles to a title in 2010.
LeBron James will be playing in his 10th NBA Finals, which is more than 27 NBA franchises. The matchup between James and Miami’s Jimmy Butler will be the 34th time the two have faced each other and the head-to-head record is deadlocked 17-17.
Heat forward Andre Iguodala will be playing in his sixth straight NBA Finals, while Lakers guard Quinn Cook will be making his third consecutive appearance.
L.A. head coach Frank Vogel and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra have coached against each other 50 times. Spoelstra leads 26-24.
Between James, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, and Danny Green, the Lakers roster features a quartet in which at least one of them has played in every Finals since 2008.
Four Black assistant coaches will be featured in the Finals as the Lakers have Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and Phil Handy, while the Heat have Malik Allen. Four is also the same number of Black head coaches in the league since Doc Rivers parted ways with the Los Angeles Clippers. For now, Lloyd Pierce (Hawks), J.B. Bickerstaff (Cavaliers), Dwane Casey (Pistons) and Monty Williams (Suns) are the only ones left. In 2012, there were as many as 14 Black head coaches in the league.