The NBA Finals have been done for a few weeks now, but those involved are still eager to talk about them. Most recently, Miami Heat president Pat Riley weighed in on the series, which saw his team fall in six games to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
During an interview on Friday, Riley dished on a number of topics, including his desire to “stay the course” after such an impressive playoff run. In terms of the Finals specifically, he lamented the fact that Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo went down with injuries in Game 1, which he believes affected the outcome of the series. Via the Miami Herald:
I would like to see what it would be like with everybody whole. We’ll get our chance again. The Lakers have the greatest player in the game today in LeBron [James] and Anthony Davis.
“They beat us fair and squarely. But there will be always be that asterisk; if we had Bam and Goran 100 percent — Goran was our leading scorer [entering the Finals] — it might have gone to a seventh game.”
First of all, doing the whole “yeah they beat us fair and square” thing, then immediately claiming within the same sentence that there should also be an asterisk is just incredible. Bravo on that one.
Jokes aside, Riley does have something of a point. The Lakers still had to take care of business, but it would have been a different series if the Heat were healthy the whole way. There’s no doubt about that. Miami was able to push the Lakers to six games with Dragic essentially missing the entire series, and Bam missing half of it. That’s not to say the Heat would have necessarily won if those guys hadn’t gotten hurt, but things would have been more competitive than they already were.
Of course, the Heat also benefitted the other way in terms of injuries in the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Indiana Pacers were without Domantas Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb in the first round, the Milwaukee Bucks lost Giannis Antetokounmpo for the back end of their second-round matchup and the Boston Celtics didn’t have Gordon Hayward for most of the Eastern Conference finals.
All told, this is why the talk of asterisks for injuries doesn’t hold up. No one is completely healthy by the playoffs, and every team is going to catch a break along the way. If you start tallying up every single piece of luck each team got along the way, all of a sudden no one would be deserving of the title.