Column: Lakers make a Finals statement; this might be over already
Honestly, this thing may already be over. Seriously, the entire evening sounded like one long sweep.
One down, one way down, one knocked and stomped and dragged down.
Three to go.
This Finals is supposed to be best of seven, but it looks like it’s going to be best of Lakers after they spotted the Heat a 13-point lead early and then outscored them by 45 points — that’s not a misprint — before slipping gently into the final margin at the AdventHealth Arena near Orlando, Fla.
You busy next Tuesday? That’s when the fourth game of this shindig is scheduled to be played. That could be the coronation. That is, if the series even has the legs to last that long.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James played like superstars to lead the Lakers to a 116-98 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Sept. 30, 2020.
This columnist picked the Lakers in four, but clearly should have picked them in three.
“We’re happy to get one win, but we’ve got to keep our foot on the gas,” coach Frank Vogel said afterward.
They certainly floored it Wednesday, so much that one could almost see the tire tracks on the Heat expressions, their faces flattened.
At one point, the television microphones picked up the Heat’s Jae Crowder pleading with his teammates to “Respond, respond, respond!”
They didn’t. They couldn’t. This sweet little Heat team that has charmed the sports world with earlier playoff upsets ran into a genuine varsity squad and just couldn’t compare.
The Lakers are too big: They outrebounded the Heat by 18. The Lakers are too unselfish:They passed their way into so many open three-pointers that they made 11 of 17 at one point.
The Lakers are too deep: They came back from that early deficit with LeBron James on the bench. And the Lakers are too, too much Anthony Davis, and who wants to bet he becomes the Finals MVP in his first try?
The Lakers defeated the Heat 116-98 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night in Orlando, Fla.
Davis had 34 points, nine rebounds and made all 10 of his free throws. He scored 11 points in the first quarter when the Lakers most needed him and never slowed.
“He’s obviously elevated his game and showed that he’s built for the big moments,” Vogel said. “With the team that’s surrounding him now, I think has really put him in a position to shine.”
He was so blindingly good, he actually overshadowed the nearly tripling-doubling James, who quietly took another step toward becoming the first player to lead three different franchises to NBA championships.
On Wednesday, he led them from the floor. The game was epitomized with a sequence that began with 1:36 left in the first half, when James went to the wood for a loose ball and screamed in both pain and persistence. The Heat won the jump, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stole the ball, Davis dunked at the other end, Andre Iguodala missed a three-pointer, James drove and hit two free throws, then Davis collected another steal, dunked again, and the Lakers ended the half with a 17-point lead.
Heat leader Jimmy Butler hobbled off the court, teammate Goran Dragic was already limping with a foot injury, and the game was over. Just to seal it, midway through the third quarter, Heat inspiration Bam Adebayo walked back to the locker room with a shoulder injury, and all hope was gone.
Actually, all hope was stolen, and with the injuries to Adebayo and Dragic supposedly lingering, how are they going to get it back? Especially after they were beaten not only by the two stars, but by 57 points from the Lakers’ role players?
“We have a team full of guys that have really starred in their roles,” Vogel said. “It has been a team effort.”
The Lakers defeat the Miami Heat 116-98 to take Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday.
It was that sort of effort that brought them back early, when, midway through the first quarter, after the Heat took a 13-point lead with more defense and more hustle.
“They smacked us in the mouth,” said James, who went to the sidelines for his usually timed rest and watched his teammates punch back.
Rajon Rondo hit a mid-range jumper. KCP hit consecutive three-pointers. James returned with the lead cut to five, aggressively got to the line, then Alex Caruso hit a three-pointer in the final seconds to give the Lakers a 31-28 lead at the end of the quarter.
“KCP saved us,” said Davis, although the Lakers were barely in need of such rescuing.
Perhaps the most compelling part of this one-sided game occurred before it began. The national anthem was played by cellist Ben Hong of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who performed via video from center court at Staples Center.
It was Hong, you’ll remember, who provided a stirring soundtrack to a city’s grief on Jan. 31 when he played, “Hallelujah” during pregame memorial services on the night the Lakers played their first game after the death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash.
As Hong played, Mamba memories abounded, ending afterward when James echoed the postseason words of Bryant.
“The job is not done,” James said.
Sorry, but it sort of feels like it.
Plaschke reported from Los Angeles.
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