No, Pat Riley didn’t mean the word “asterisk” in the way most people assumed he did.
The Miami Heat president — just days after saying there “will always be that asterisk” associated with their NBA Finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers this season inside the bubble at Walt Disney World — backtracked on Sunday.
‘The Lakers were the better team’
The asterisk, Riley said, belongs to them.
“The asterisk is next to the Heat’s name, not the Lakers,” Riley said, via the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds. “Their title is legitimate. Our loss has the asterisk [next] to it.
“The Lakers were the better team. Period.”
The Lakers beat the Heat in the Finals 4-2 — behind a blowout win in Game 6 — to secure their 17th championship earlier this month. LeBron James and the Lakers, who were dominant all season both before and after the COVID-19 hiatus, undoubtedly earned their title.
Yet with the coronavirus pandemic altering the season and forcing teams into a bubble in Florida, many automatically stuck an “asterisk” on the season simply because it looked different.
That, though, isn’t what Riley was talking about.
The Heat lost stars Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic to injury in the first game of the series. Though Adebayo returned in Game 4 and Dragic in Game 6, the team was never the same without them.
Had his team been at full strength, Riley said, things could have been different.
“They beat us fair and squarely,” Riley said Friday. “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.”
Miami Heat president Pat Riley before Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals. (AP/Mark J. Terrill)
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