The small-ball Miami Heat struggled to stop Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals. The Lakers coasted to a 118-96 victory, but led by as many as 32 points in a difficult opening game in which the Heat lost Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (shoulder).
Davis led all scorers with 34 points. LeBron James missed a triple-double by one assist with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists.
Once the Heat lost Dragic to a torn plantar fascia in the second quarter, the wheels fell off the bus without their leading scorer and deep threat.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 23 points. He sprained his ankle at the end of the second quarter, but gutted out the rest of the game.
Kendrick Nunn added 18 points off the bench for the Heat while replacing Dragic. If Dragic is unable to go in Game 2, Nunn will get tapped to start.
Davis busted heads on both ends of the court, which is why the Lakers worked out a blockbuster deal to acquire him. Miami’s defenders couldn’t slow him down. On the defensive end, he caused havoc in the paint and on the boards.
LeBron led everyone with 13 rebounds, Davis pulled down nine boards, and Dwight Howard added eight in only 15 minutes of action. Even Kyle Kuzma added eight rebounds off the bench.
“The Lakers set the tenor, the tone, the force, the physicality, for the majority of the game and they just took control and we weren’t able to get it back,” said Miami heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Lakers out-rebounded the Heat 54-36 and owned the glass. Pat Riley once said, “No rebounds, no rings.”
😤 AD's getting it done on the glass and is up to 22 PTS! #NBAFinals
GAME 1 ON ABC pic.twitter.com/PaXCqZuNMT
— NBA (@NBA) October 1, 2020
Sizzling Start, Ugly Everywhere Else
The Heat got off to a hot start in the first quarter and led 23-10 after a 13-0 spurt. As the cliche goes — it was all downhill from there. The Lakers outscored the Heat 21-5 to close out the quarter with a three-point lead.
“You have to get a feel for how hard Miami plays,” explained LeBron. “They smacked us in the mouth and we got a sense of that. From that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities.”
With their dual playmakers, the Lakers started to pull away in the second quarter. By halftime, they led by 17 points.
“They have guys at the point of attack in LeBron and Davis that are going to break your defense down, can make plays over the top,” said Spoelstra. “You have to be extremely disciplined and stay with it. There was [sic] too many times that they got us out of our typical things that we do.”
Once the Heat lost Adebayo in the third quarter, they were toast as the Lakers opened up a 30-point lead.
Miami’s sharpshooting threats, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, combined for just 2-for-11 from 3-point land. Robinson went scoreless, but Herro finished with 14 points, mostly in garbage time.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 1, 2020
The Heat utilized small ball to perfection to reach the NBA Finals. The Lakers took the floor with an obviously taller lineup (Dwight Howard and Davis starting in their frontline), but the Heat were undeterred despite the height disadvantage. They actually smoked the bigger lineup at the onset.
When Dragic went down, the Lakers started their run. The Heat’s shooters went cold, failed to slow down the Lakers’ transition game, and fell into a deep hole.
Against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat rallied back multiple times after being down by double digits in the third quarter. However, the Heat struggled to jump-start their offense in the third quarter against LA. The Lakers were the ones who came out of the locker room all fired up after halftime.
Davis and company held Adebayo to just eight points on 2-for-8 from the floor before he exited the game with the shoulder injury.
Adebayo’s status for Game 2 is currently unknown.
After the game, Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed that Dragic tore the plantar fascia in his left foot.
“We know how much he wants to win, how much he wants to go to war and battle with us,” said Butler. “And obviously, we love him for that and we want him out there with us. But whatever the docs tell him to do, that’s what he’s got to do. He’s got to take care of himself first.”
That’s a nasty and painful injury that could take months to heal. He could miss a couple of games, but who knows if he tries to play through the pain with a cortisone shot.
“He’s as tough as anybody, and it’s the Finals,” said Spoelstra.