All eyes have been on LeBron James since the Los Angeles Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals, and he delivered in Game 1 with a near triple-double in their victory over the Miami Heat.
James finished the night with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in 36 minutes of action, overwhelming the undersized Heat front court. James was aggressive getting to the basket like he has all postseason and exposed the Miami defense whenever he was able to draw a switch with a smaller defender like Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson.
While James controlled the game for most of the night, it was actually the Heat that delivered the first punch of the series as they went up 23-10 in the first quarter. Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder found success from beyond the arc, while the Lakers were careless with the ball and turned it over four times in the period.
It was a worrisome start, but James and the Lakers rallied behind their defense which eventually fueled a massive 75-30 run that spanned three quarters. “I don’t think in the beginning that we were physical enough. You have to get a feel for how hard Miami plays,” James said.
“I think they smacked us in the mouth, and we got a sense of that. And so we knew how hard we had to play if we wanted to try to make it a game. From that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities.
“We started flying around, we started getting defensive stops, we started sharing the ball a lot better offensively and just got into a really good groove.”
The Lakers looked too casual initially, seemingly trying to feel out the game while the Heat were full throttle from the jump. They were the more aggressive team and for a moment it seemed L.A. was going to be in for a long night.
Their response, however, was nothing short of impressive as they focused and began to wear down Miami with their defensive intensity and physicality on both ends. Whenever the Heat went to their smaller lineups, the Lakers punished them on the boards and inside the paint.
Part of L.A.’s run came when Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo were forced to leave the game with injuries, but the game was out already out of hand at that point. Still, James and the rest of the roster need to remain sharp ahead of Game 2.
Frank Vogel explains potential challenges playing two-big lineups/h2>
The Lakers have made their bones playing traditional two-big lineups in the postseason, a vastly different play style compared to the Heat who opt to go small with Adebayo at center.
Prior to Game 1, Frank Vogel outlined what kind of problems Miami could pose to his patented lineup choice. “Well, just spacing,” Vogel explained.
“They run a lot of action, they are great at driving and cutting, they are not a team that really isolates a lot. It’s not about having our five-man deal with a 3-point shooter and trying to just double-team the iso. It’s a great ball movement offense.
“Puts a lot of pressure on fives to run around the three-point line. Opens up space in the paint.”
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