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Thursday, October 01, 2020

Lakers Overcome Slow Start, Rout Heat in Game One

The Miami Heat raced to a 23-10 lead over the L.A.Lakers in game one of the NBA Finals, but the Lakers tied the score at 28 just before the end of the first quarter, led 65-48 at halftime and were never threatened the rest of the way en route to a 116-98 win. Anthony Davis dominated at both ends of the court, finishing with a game-high 34 points on 11-21 field goal shooting plus nine rebounds, five assists, and three blocked shots. He led both teams with a +23 plus/minus number. Davis matched Elgin Baylor for the third most points scored by a Laker in his Finals debut, trailing only Shaquille O'Neal (43 points) and George Mikan (42 points). 

LeBron James started the game slowly--he scored just nine points on 2-6 field goal shooting in the first half--but he padded his numbers in the second half during what Marv Albert would call "extensive garbage time," finishing with 25 points on 9-17 field goal shooting, a game-high 13 rebounds, and nine assists. He had a +10 plus/minus number, but plus/minus numbers can be skewed by garbage time and it is worth noting that James' first half plus/minus number was +4 despite his team leading by 17; for all practical purposes, the outcome was decided in the first half, when Davis had a +19 plus/minus number, and four other Lakers had plus/minus numbers of at least +18: Alex Caruso (+20), Rajon Rondo (+20), and Kyle Kuzma (+18). The main stories in the first half were (1) the Heat could not match up with Davis and (2) the Lakers' bench destroyed the Heat's bench. In the first half, Miami reserves had stunningly bad plus/minus numbers, including Tyler Herro (-30) and Andre Iguodala (-27). The Lakers took over the game after James sat out for his normal first quarter rest, they extended the margin after James returned, and they never looked back.

The Lakers started one of their bigger lineups with Davis (6-10), Dwight Howard (6-10), and James (6-9) in the frontcourt, so it is not surprising that the Lakers outrebounded the Heat 54-36--but the Lakers also set a franchise record for most three pointers made in an NBA Finals game (15). Other than the first few minutes--and not counting anything that happened in garbage time--it is difficult to think of anything that the Heat did well on a consistent basis.

Jimmy Butler was the only player from the Heat's regular rotation who played well, contributing a team-high 23 points on 8-13 field goal shooting plus five assists. Butler was hobbled by a left ankle injury but he still played 33 minutes. Bam Adebayo struggled (eight points on 2-8 field goal shooting, four rebounds in 21 minutes) before leaving the game due to a shoulder injury. Goran Dragic scored six points on 3-8 field goal shooting in 15 minutes before suffering a foot injury that caused him to miss the second half. Kendrick Nunn--who may not have played at all had the game been close and had Dragic not been injured--piled up 18 points in garbage time, and Herro finished with 14 points on 6-18 field goal shooting along with a -35 plus/minus number.

NBA Finals history contains many examples of teams losing game one but winning the series; this has happened at least once in each of the past five decades, with some prominent examples including Portland (1977), L.A. Lakers (1985), Chicago (1991), Miami (2006), and Dallas (2011). However, in this series the Heat face an uphill battle for several reasons: (1) the Lakers have not only the two best players but also the deeper bench, (2) the Heat seemed to have no answers even at full strength during the first half, and (3) it is not clear when/if Adebayo and/or Dragic will return to action.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:52 AM



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