Game 1 of the NBA Finals couldn’t have gone much better for the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only did they thoroughly outclass the Miami Heat, at one point pushing their lead to 32 points, but they also disarmed their deadliest weapons without much trouble.
That vaunted zone defense that Miami used to fluster the Boston Celtics? The Lakers figured it out in about a quarter. Once they went “small” using Anthony Davis at center, they essentially got whatever shot they wanted. The Heat even tried doubling Davis, be he countered but swinging the ball to the open man, forcing Miami to scramble.
One, sometimes two passes, open three. Bottom.
The Heat’s 3-point shooting was also considered to be the great equalizer that would allow them to stick with the bigger, stronger Lakers. But talented sniper Duncan Robinson was defended out of existence by L.A’s wings, finishing 0-for-3 in 27 minutes as the Lakers smothered the Heat’s best effort to try to free him.
Miami might as well have just called out what sets they were going to run because coach Frank Vogel’s squad was so well prepared that at times it looked like they knew the play better than the Heat did. That’s a credit to the Lakers’ coaching staff as well as LeBron James, who was seen multiple times calling out what Miami was going to run.
Perhaps head coach Erik Spoelstra’s familiarity with James, a talking point that gave hope that the Heat could defend him better than previous opponents, isn’t as much of an advantage as James’ familiarity with Spoelstra is.
To be fair, the Heat’s game plan wasn’t bad at all, the Lakers were simply that good. Spoelstra is an excellent coach who will surely have a whole new arsenal of trickery to deploy in Game 2. The general blueprint to get a win over the Lakers is to stop the Lakers from getting into transition (mission accomplished there; L.A. only scored 10 fast break points), then wall off the paint and force their half-court offense to make jump shots.
Again, the Heat succeeded, as the Lakers only scored 38 points in the paint compared to 46 for Miami. However, during Game 1, those jump shots that teams are willing to concede to L.A. connected. Over and over and over again.
The Lakers took 38 3-pointers on the night, many were wide open as the Heat focused on the paint, and converted on 40% of them, though that percentage is a little misleading as many of their misfires came after the game was already decided.
At halftime, they had hit a ridiculous 65% from deep on 17 attempts.
Miami got the Lakers to shoot from outside and still got blown out because the Los Angeles generated quality looks and knocked them down. The game plan for success turned into a new way to lose to the Lakers.
Of course, it didn’t start that way. The Heat jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter, but Vogel brought more shooting and spacing on the floor by using Davis at center for most of the night, with Dwight Howard only logging 15 minutes and JaVale McGee received a DNP.
With talented Heat center Bam Adebayo dealing with an injury, Davis was more than enough of an advantage inside, and the Lakers won the rebounding battle 54-36.
The Heat unfortunately saw injuries to Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, in addition to Adebayo, arguably their three most important players, but the Lakers’ dominance was already on full display. On both ends of the floor, they were simply too much for the Heat to handle.
And yet, the most impressive part of the Lakers’ performance may have come after the game. When asked about potentially playing a Heat team that could be missing some key pieces next game and the Lakers letting their focus wane as a result, James said, “The job is not done and we’re not satisfied with winning one game.”
Davis echoed those sentiments, and also lamented Miami’s late run that slightly cut into the Lakers lead. The victory was never close to being threatened, but Davis and James were still bothered by the Heat’s success in garbage time.
Anything to keep the mental edge.
As dominant as the game was, the Lakers’ star duo made it clear that nothing has been accomplished yet. They understand the work that still lies ahead. To wit, with mere minutes left in a blowout win that, James was barking to teammates about a missed defensive switch.
In the NBA Finals, there simply isn’t any room to take your foot off the gas, not with so much at stake. They understand that next game, the shots may not fall so easily, and they have to be prepared. The Heat aren’t going away after one loss.
The win in Game 1 was nice, but the Lakers won’t get ahead of themselves. There will be plenty of time to celebrate and smile after they win the last game of the season. Until then, it’s all business.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!