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One big Lakers win: Five takeaways from Game 1 rout of Heat

Lakers guard Danny Green, left, knocks the ball from Heat forward Jimmy Butler during Game 1.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In their postgame news conferences, there were ways in which the Lakers weren’t talking like a team that had just thrashed their opponent in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. They talked about what they could improve, and they talked about how this was only one game.

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 116-98 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night:

1. The basketball junkie in LeBron James surfaced after Game 1 as he geeked out over the thought of watching film of the game. “I think you can learn so much more from a win than you can in a loss,” James said. “I can’t wait for tomorrow for us to get back together and watch the film and see ways we can be better and see some of the breakdowns that we had, especially in that fourth quarter, especially in that first six minutes of the first quarter where we can be so much better defensively and also so much better offensively. … I’m extremely amped up about watching the film with our ballclub tomorrow. I’m going to watch some tonight obviously by myself, but I’m looking forward to getting together as a group tomorrow.”

2. Anthony Davis had one of the best Finals debuts in NBA history. His 34 points also were tied with Elgin Baylor for the third-most scored by any player in his first Finals game as a Laker. The only players who scored more in their Lakers’ Finals debuts? Shaquille O’Neal with 43 points and George Mikan with 42. “It’s a great honor to be in that category with those guys,” Davis said. “I mean, they have done so much for the game, Hall of Famers, and for me to come out and perform that way and be mentioned with those guys, especially just as a Laker. You know, with the biggest franchise in basketball, them guys that you watch film on, but you idolize, and now that, like you say, to be in that category, is definitely a huge honor for me.”

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3. The Lakers outrebounded the Heat 54-36, and Heat star Jimmy Butler attributed that disparity to toughness. “We just got to be tougher,” Butler said. “We got to put up more of a fight. I don’t think we did that. And then it doesn’t help whenever we don’t make shots. It’s been that way all year long, whenever we start to miss a couple shots, we don’t do what we’re supposed to do on the other end. So I think we should always think about letting our defense, for sure our rebounding, start it off for us and then hopefully we start to make shots.” Butler’s story this season holds an interesting parallel to that of James. Just as when James came to Los Angeles, some said it was to make movies, not to win a championship, while Butler’s decision to play in Miami was critiqued by many who thought he was making a lifestyle choice.

4. The Lakers entered Game 1 of the Finals having shot 35.5% from three-point range in the playoffs, but thrived from long range in the first half, making 11 of 17 threes, or 64.7% of their attempts. In all, they made 13 of their first 20. It was later in the game that they began to struggle from three-point range. That is no doubt an element that they’ll examine during their off day.

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.

5. Dwight Howard seems to have taken over the role of starting center for the Lakers. Coach Frank Vogel decided he would probably use only one center against the Heat because of Miami’s penchant to go smaller with their second unit. All season Howard has offered a boost off the bench, but when forced to choose just one center for the game, Vogel wanted it to be Howard. “Dwight had a great finish in the Denver series,” Vogel said. “He’s a physical, imposing presence on one of their best players in Bam Adebayo, so we decided to go with Dwight in the role.”

The Lakers defeated the Heat 116-98 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night in Orlando, Fla.

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