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Lakers vs. Heat Preview: Mamba No. 5

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The Lakers are getting out their Black Mamba jerseys for a possible closeout game in the NBA Finals, but the Heat aren’t going to just lay down.

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2020 NBA Finals - Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

As you’ve probably read by now, the Lakers are undefeated (4-0) when they wear their Black Mamba jerseys designed by the late Kobe Bryant, and there are a lot of theories on why that is.

It could just be chance, a statistical aberration. It could be just that the Lakers are a really good team, and have only lost four playoff games total in 19 tries so far. It could be a bit of both.

But that hasn’t stopped the team from offering more theories. Anthony Davis says that the Lakers’ “swag is a little different every time we put on those jerseys.” Danny Green says that in addition to looking great, the special material Nike made these jerseys out of is more breathable and feels better, too.

Whatever the reason may ultimately be for their success in the jerseys, though, the Lakers have decided to try and use their possibly mystical powers to close out the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers were originally slated to wear these jerseys next in a possible Game 7, but with a 3-1 lead on the Miami Heat, they’re looking to channel their inner Black Mamba and go for the kill.

“Just to be playing in the Mamba jersey means — it’s humbling to us and means a lot,” said Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “We don’t want to lose in the Mamba jerseys, which we haven’t done yet, so we’re here to take the last game.”

The reason the Lakers don’t want to lose in the uniforms goes back to the Lakers’ continued quest to honor Bryant with the way they play, to embody the killer instinct and hard work he always brought to the table.

“It means something. Something more than just a uniform. It represents an individual who gave the franchise 20 years of his blood, sweat and tears, and his dedication to his craft, both on and off the floor, to make that franchise be proud of him, and hopefully vice versa,” said LeBron James. “I think it’s just pretty cool when you know you’re wearing a uniform that a legend had his hands on.”

But the Lakers are going to need more than just iconic jerseys to beat the Heat. Miami will still have Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler in the lineup, and while a return from Goran Dragic seems unlikely at this point, the Heat showed in Game 4 that they’re still more than prepared to fight to their last breath, even if they’re now trailing 3-1.

“We’ve got a chance. We still believe. They’re writing us off. Everybody is doubting us. But as long as the people in the locker room and all our coaching staff have belief in us, that’s all that matters,” Adebayo said at practice on Thursday.

The good news for the Lakers is that getting out the Mamba Jerseys isn’t emblematic of the players feeling like they need an extra boost, even if those uniforms seem to have given them one throughout the playoffs so far. James said that the players didn’t ask to wear them, and he’s not sure whose idea it was. As someone who has the best record in closeout games (38-10) in NBA history, and a man who has won 16 of his last 17 closeout opportunities, he’s ready to go regardless.

“I’ll wear any uniform, to be honest,” James said. “Just put me on the court.”

The job’s not finished, but with the star power of James and Davis combined with a little bonus swag from the jerseys designed by the man who popularized the preceding phrase in basketball, it very well soon could be.

Notes and Updates

  • Nothing has changed for the Lakers on the injury front heading into this one:
  • As mentioned previously, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said that Adebayo would play, while adding that Dragic is still being listed as doubtful to play after tearing his plantar fascia in Game 1. Dragic did try to warm up and play on Tuesday, though, so he very well might on Friday as well.
  • The major news of Thursday was Rob Pelinka getting snubbed in Executive of the Year voting, finishing seventh. The team he built isn’t quite sure why this keeps happening to the Lakers, but they say it’s just more motivation to win the only trophy that really matters.
  • If the Lakers do win, they won’t be able to have a championship parade because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The team is also telling people to stay away from L.A. Live and Staples Center, both during and after Game 5. If the team does win, I hope all of you celebrate responsibly.

Game 5 will tip at 6:00 p.m. PT on ABC. You can also sign up to watch the game on fuboTV here.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.