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Lakers are going to great lengths to dominate Heat in NBA Finals

Miami's Jimmy Butler looks to pass as several Lakers, including Anthony Davis and LeBron James, defend in Game 2.
The Heat’s Jimmy Butler looks to pass as several Lakers, including Anthony Davis (3) and LeBron James (23), defend in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
)

Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat’s last-standing star, pushed the ball down the court and into the paint, his team down 10 with a chance to get the psychological lift of seeing that deficit become a single digit.

With Lakers defensive ace Alex Caruso the only player between him and the rim, Butler pushed ahead, deciding in mid-air that he wanted to kick the ball back out. What he didn’t know, and would soon realize, was LeBron James and Anthony Davis were trailing the play, the two players throwing their arms in the air.

Suddenly Butler was trapped, like a forest of California redwoods sprouted in an instant. He had no choice but to fire the ball into the trees, and the Lakers forced the turnover.

After that, Miami never cut that lead inside of 10.

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It was one moment — you could’ve picked 20 others — in the first two games of the NBA Finals that tell some simple facts. The Lakers are bigger. The Lakers are longer. The Lakers are stronger.

Basketball doesn’t always reward these things. The most dominant team in the last half-decade did it the opposite way, spacing the floor instead of turning it into a wrestling ring. But with the NBA going small, the Lakers went big.

And now, in the NBA Finals, there’s been little evidence to suggest the Miami Heat can stop it.

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“This is the deal,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “If you want something badly enough, you’ll figure out a way to overcome it.”

The Lakers are acting like they don’t buy that Miami can.

They’ve, in fact, known they could play with more force than anyone throughout this postseason, acting like a team that can bully without repercussions.

Ten of the best images from the Lakers’ win over the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Orlando, Fla., on Friday.

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The bench talks a ton of trash — try being a player unlucky enough to stand next to Davis in front of the Lakers sideline. JaVale McGee might yell “steak dinner,” letting you know that you’re just another meal for the dominant 6-foot-10 scorer.

It’s happened all postseason, even stretching into the Finals, when the bench will be happy to let the Heat know just how small they are when the Lakers outmuscle them.

But when the Lakers are at their best, they’re a team that can wrestle a loose ball away under the basket just as proficiently as it’s connected through each rotation on defense, beating the Heat to the spot to draw a charge.

It happened in stretches Friday, especially in the second quarter when the Lakers built their double-digit lead. For them to be their best, it’ll have to happen more often.

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In Game 2, the Heat have to leave discouraged, having pushed the Lakers into the kind of game plan that they wanted only to get dominated in and around the rim, a place where they’re extra vulnerable as long as Bam Adebayo is out with a strained neck.

They had 56 points in the paint while scoring only nine in transition. The Miami zone got the bad shooting night out of the Lakers that they desperately needed, but so many of those misses got corralled for offensive rebounds.

“In those moments of truth when we had opportunities to get the game closer, it usually seemed to end up in some kind of offensive rebound or something near the basket,” Spoelstra said.

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The Lakers grabbed 16 offensive boards including eight from Davis, who hit 15 of 20 shots from the field, either pushing through or shooting over Miami — becoming the third player ever to shoot 75% or better when taking 20 shots in an NBA Finals game.

The other two are Shaquille O’Neal and Larry Bird.

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Highlights from the Lakers’ 124-114 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

The Lakers don’t have to play Dwight Howard for 30-plus minutes for the team to be physical. They can do it with James, Davis and Markieff Morris.

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“That’s the biggest thing,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s our ability to be hybrid.”

Spoelstra said he doesn’t “give a s— what everybody else thinks” about the Heat’s future in this series. But he does recognize where the Heat are right now isn’t good enough.

“We’re trying to get something accomplished and you just have to go to another level,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the bottom line.”

But to get there, they’ll have to knock the Lakers back — and it just seems like they won’t be able to do it.


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