A statement victory from the Lakers, who led by as many as 32 and outside of a small blip through the opening phases of the first quarter, the Finals-opening victory was a complete, dominant victory that had Miami looking every bit the outclassed underdogs most expected them to be coming into the championship series.
Here are a few takeaways from the Lakers’ evisceration of the Heat.
As much as people want to announce the death of old-school power basketball, that’s pretty much exactly how the Lakers routed the Heat, led by Davis’s 34 points. Davis was simply too skilled and too big for any of the undersized and overmatched Miami defenders to handle.
However, it wasn’t just Davis who proved to be a size problem for the Heat. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel opted to go with a “twin towers” look by inserting Dwight Howard into the starting lineup as the team’s centre, moving Davis to power forward, where he prefers to play.
Heat coach Erik Spoelsta had no answer for this as he tried Jae Crowder on Davis for the brunt of the contest. Though Crowder is tough, Davis could simply shoot over him or draw a foul, contributing to the 10 free-throw attempts Davis took on Wednesday.
Perhaps Spoelstra wanted to avoid getting his star centre Bam Adebayo into foul trouble by matching him against Davis, but he might be the only solution Miami has as the Lakers’ overwhelming size looks to be something the Heat can’t counter.
In even graver news for the Heat, there’s a chance they might not even get a chance to see what Adebayo can do against Davis defensively as he and starting point guard Goran Dragic were forced to leave the game early with apparent injuries.
Adebayo left midway through the third quarter with a left shoulder strain and Dragic didn’t come back to the court after halftime with a left foot problem that, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski could be a serious plantar tear in his foot.
Couple this news with the bad-looking ankle twist Jimmy Butler appeared to suffer at the end of the first half – though he stayed in the game – and you have a recipe for possible cataclysmic disaster for the Heat as that’s their three best players possibly missing time as these Finals progress.
Lakers role players outclass Heat’s
And the hits just keep on coming for the Heat from Game 1.
Coming into this series, Miami was thought to have a distinct advantage in the role player department with names like Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Crowder being key offensive cogs all playoffs long.
Instead, however, it was the much-maligned secondary guys of the Lakers who took centre stage, thoroughly outplaying their Heat counterparts until garbage time was unofficially announced.
A good way to view this is to look at the game Danny Green had in comparison to Herro. Green had 11 points, was 3-for-8 from three-point range and his plus-21 rating for the game was second on the Lakers only to Davis’s plus-23. Herro on the other hand may have scored more with 14 points, but he was just 2-for-8 from deep and was a putrid minus-35 for the game.
If Miami can’t at least have its role players outperform Los Angeles’s this series is already over.
Lakers turn game around with first-quarter run
The most drama in the game took place in the first quarter, when Crowder drilled a triple to give the Heat a 23-10 advantage with 5:38 to play in the period. That gave pause to the thought that the Lakers would just run roughshod over the Heat.
This thought only lasted but a fleeting moment, however. After that Crowder three, Vogel took a timeout and the Lakers proceeded to close the quarter on a 21-5 run and take a 31-28 lead into the second quarter that would end up snowballing from there.
LeBron is legendary
It feels odd not talking about LeBron James yet, so here’s an item to correct.
James had possibly the quietest near-triple-double line of 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in NBA history.
It speaks to his continued brilliance that he can put up a line like that and not automatically be the headliner.
It’s also crazy that his most impressive highlight from this incredible game didn’t even count:
Bron getting crazy after the buzzer pic.twitter.com/voX1YxDlQf
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 1, 2020
We should always strive to do our best to not take an athlete this great for granted.