Pat Riley says Miami’s injuries put asterisk on NBA Finals

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UPDATE: Pat Riley clarified what he meant by “asterisk” — a loaded word in the 2020 bubble season — saying it is on the Heat, not the Lakers’ title.

Riley said in his original statement the Lakers were the better team, he realizes this is a legit championship. The injuries to the Heat did suck some of the drama out of the series, although it may well have ended the same way.

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Staying healthy and avoiding major injuries is a part of every championship run. Would Toronto have beaten Golden State in 2019 if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson been healthy? Would Cleveland have come back on Golden State from 3-1 down in 2016 if the Warriors starting center and defensive anchor Andrew Bogut were not injured?

We’ll never know, but we don’t put an asterisk on the Cavaliers and Raptors titles because of that. They won. They earned that banner. Every champion catches some breaks.

Yet Pat Riley said there should be an asterisk on the Lakers’ title in the NBA bubble because of Miami’s injuries to Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo. Here is what the Heat president said in a Zoom call with reporters on Saturday:

“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 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 — it might have gone to a seventh game.”

Just for clarification, Dragic was the Heat’s leading playoff scorer entering the Finals.

That’s not an asterisk for the Lakers, that’s basketball. I get why Riley is frustrated, but that’s life. Would the Finals have played out differently with a healthy Dragic and Adebayo (the Heat center played but was about 75% with that neck/shoulder injury)? Maybe, but it very well may not have changed the outcome, the Lakers’ defense was spectacular, and LeBron James and Davis were beasts. The better team won and likely would have won regardless.

At least Riley didn’t go for the bubble asterisk.