When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard -- after previously having added Steve Nash this offseason -- some of the immediate reaction was that the NBA should just skip ahead to the inevitable Heat-Lakers 2013 NBA Finals.
Ask and ye shall receive.
Personally, I think assuming a Heat-Lakers Finals is overly dismissive of the Spurs and Thunder, and any number of things could change between now and June 2013, but that won't stop us from having some fun.
So armed with an updated roster, rotations and sliders for NBA 2K12, I simulated the 2013 Finals.
(Here's the part where I throw in a bunch of caveats about this simulation not having updated offensive sets for either team, imperfect rotation assumptions, and even outdated tendencies for players like LeBron James -- who adapted his game in the 2012 Playoffs. Sony take this as a scientific exercise. It's just for fun.)
The Lakers had home court advantage, but they played more like a jittery road team early I'm this one. Miami led by seven after one, and stretched the lead to nine heading into the 4th. That's when Steve Nash, making his Finals debut, took over. He finished with a team-high 18 points, and L.A. outscored Miami 27-12 in the final 12 minutes to earn a six-point win. LeBron James struggled all game, finishing with just 12 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Dwyane Wade was also 6-18, but added 6 points from the free throw line to lead the Heat with 18. Dwight Howard (12 pts, 13 reb) and Pau Gasol (10 pts, 14 reb) had double-doubles for the Lakers.
Lakers 78, Heat 72. Lakers lead series 1-0.
The Lakers interior dominance overpowered the Heat from start to finish, as they cruised to a 13-point victory. Gasol finished with 19 and 10, Dwight Howard added 18 and 6 and even Antawn Jamison got in on the fun, scoring 17 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. LeBron had 32 points to lead all scorers, but shot under 50% (11-24) for the second straight game. The Big Three combined for 68 of Miami's 87 points, getting little help from the bench.
Lakers 100, Heat 87. Lakers lead series 2-0.
The series shifted to Miami, and LeBron James shifted back into 2012 form. He finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds, going 8-15 from the field and 11-12 from the line to lead the Heat to a 4-point win. Miami won the rebounding battle for the first time in the series. Keeping Dwight Howard off the offensive glass limited his effectiveness, as he was just 4-10 from the field, finishing with 11 points, Kobe Bryant led L.A. with 22 points on 22 shots. LeBron, Wade and Bosh (67 points) outscored the Lakers staring lineup.
Heat 93, Lakers 89. Lakers lead series 2-1.
The Heat slowly built a lead over the first three quarters, then hung on for dear life as Kobe Bryant went off in the fourth. Bryant scored 21 of his game-high 38 in the final 12 minutes, but Miami got just enough from Dwyane Wade to hold on for a 7-point win. Wade finished with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting. LeBron had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. The Lakers inside duo of Howard and Gasol combined for just 17 points, 4 fewer than Chris Bosh had on his own.
Heat 93, Lakers 86. Series tied 2-2.
After two dismal games back in Florida, Dwight Howard finally flashed the form that made him a star in the state, going off for 29 points and 18 rebounds. He made the first three baskets of the game, all on dunks, and finished 13-14 from the field. That helped cover for dismal shooting by Kobe Bryant, who was just 7-23 and 0-5 from beyond the arc. Kobe's poor shooting helped Miami crawl back into a game that appeared to be all but over. The Lakers led by 20 after 3, but needed a LeBron James 3 to rim out at the buzzer to escape with a 3-point win. LeBron finished with 22 points and Dwyane Wade led the team with 27. Chris Bosh, who was regularly beaten by Howard on the defensive end, had just 12 points and missed 8 of his 10 shots.
Lakers 86, Heat 83. Lakers lead series 3-2.
Back in Los Angeles, the Lakers were ready to celebrate a title, and everything seemed to be going to plan early. Kobe Bryant made his first four shots, and L.A. built a 10-point lead after 12 minutes. Then LeBron went into "2012 Game 6 in Boston" mode, posting an absurd 37 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals to lead Miami to a blowout victory. LeBron was 15-19 from the field and Dwyane Wade shot 11-17 to add 24 points. Chris Bosh made only 4 shots, but was a perfect 10-10 from the line to add 18 points. The trio nearly outscore the Lakers on their own. Dwight Howard led L.A. with 21 points, but he and Pau Gasol were in foul trouble much of the game.
Heat 113, Lakers 89. Series tied 3-3.
The Lakers looked like a team that knew it had let an opportunity slip though its fingers, letting the Heat take an 11-0 lead to start the game. LeBron James was in attack mode early, scoring 11 of Miami's first 14 points. Still, the Lakers clawed their way back into it, and after a Kobe Bryant breakaway dunk were within 4 midway through the 3rd quarter. That's when the Heat poured on a 3-point barrage, opening a 10-point lead by the end of the quarter, and stretching it to 16 just a minute into the 4th. LeBron led all scorers with 29 points and added 10 rebounds. Mario Chalmers (16) and Ray Allen (10 in 15 minutes) added key scoring in supporting roles. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 22 points, while Steve Nash added 14 on 6-16 shooting.
Heat 103, Lakers 79. Heat win series 4-3.
Series MVP: LeBron James (24.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.7 SPG)
Game 7 Highlights