Anthony Davis, LeBron James star in Lakers’ Game 1 rout
After a slow start, the Lakers powered through a 13-point first-quarter deficit to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 116-98 on Wednesday.
Anthony Davis was dominant in his NBA Finals debut with 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists. LeBron James, playing in his 50th Finals game, came one assist short of a triple-double, finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.
After falling behind 23-10 in the first quarter, the Lakers outscored Miami 83-44 entering the fourth quarter. They made 15 of 38 (39.5%) three-pointers in the win.
The Lakers let a 32-point lead shrink to 13 in the fourth quarter, which prompted Davis to say on the ESPN broadcast after the game that he expected his team to play better with the lead.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 23 points, despite playing through a turned ankle suffered in the first half.
Miami cuts into deficit, but Lakers still in control
After trailing by as many as 32 points, the Heat have cut the deficit to 17, trailing 107-90 with 4:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Pulling off the comeback seems impossible at this point for the Heat, but they are trying to regain some momentum heading into Game 2 on Friday despite their hobbled stars.
The Heat cut the Lakers’ 32-point lead down to 18 briefly, inserting Jimmy Butler, who injured his ankle in the first half, back into the game with about seven minutes remaining. The Lakers scored seven straight points to keep the Heat at arm’s length.
Butler has 23 points and five assists for the Heat, but will have to turn around quickly for Game 2.
Not only will a hobbled Butler try to carry the Heat moving forward, he might be without fellow starters Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (shoulder) after they both suffered injuries Wednesday.
Kendrick Nunn has 18 points for the Heat with five rebounds off the bench.
Injury updates as Lakers lead by 20
The Lakers are still up big, leading 95-75 with 9:54 to go in the fourth quarter.
Tania Ganguli checks in on guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo:
Lakers cruise into fourth qarter with 26-point lead
The Heat have no answers for the Lakers, who lead 93-67 going into the fourth quarter. However, the Lakers got a brief scare at the end of the third as Rajon Rondo was shaken up.
Rondo has seven points, two rebounds and two assists for the Lakers.
Anthony Davis has 30 points, while LeBron James is approaching a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Jimmy Butler leads the Heat with 21 points and five assists.
Since trailing the Heat 23-10 with 5:38 left in the first quarter, the Lakers have outscored Miami 83-44.
No Finals fright for Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is making easy work of his NBA Finals debut with 28 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Lakers have opened up an 87-55 lead with 6:04 to go in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Heat center Bam Adebayo appeared to reinjure his left shoulder and was taken back to the locker room.
Lakers dominating halfway through third quarter
The Lakers are up 80-54 with 7:49 left to play in the third quarter, dominating on both ends of the court behind Anthony Davis’ 24 points and six rebounds.
Goran Dragic is doubtful to return with foot injury as Lakers extend lead
The Lakers are ahead 76-54 with 9:01 to go in the third quarter with Anthony Davis’ 22 points leading the effort.
Miami starting point guard Goran Dragic is “doubtful” to return after a left foot injury, according to the team. He had six points, three assists and two steals in 15 minutes in the first half.
Danny Green has 11 points, making three-of-six three-pointers as the Lakers are shooting 61.9% from long range.
Heat’s Jimmy Butler starts second half after turning ankle
Despite turning his ankle late in the first half, Jimmy Butler is back on the court to start the second half with the Lakers ahead 65-48. Butler scored the first basket of the second half, completing a three-point play.
LeBron James puts final flourish on first half
It doesn’t count on the scoreboard, but LeBron James’ after-buzzer reverse dunk can still count in our hearts.
Lakers lead at halftime after hot shooting
The Lakers lead 65-48 at halftime, thanks to the team’s hot three-point shooting.
After shooting 35.5% from three-point range in the playoffs entering Game 1, the Lakers are off to a sizzling start from long distance in the Finals, making 11 of 17 (64.7%) three-pointers in the first half.
Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with 18 points, including two-of-two shooting from beyond the arc, and four rebounds. LeBron James has nine points, six rebounds and seven assists.
The Lakers outscored the Heat 34-20 in the second quarter, keeping Miami forward Bam Adebayo in check after he picked up two early fouls.
Jimmy Butler injured before halftime
Heat star Jimmy Butler turned his ankle while planting his foot before going up for a shot in the final seconds of the first half, forcing Miami to take a timeout down 65-48 with 12 seconds remaining before halftime.
Lakers increase lead with LeBron on the bench
LeBron James has the best seat in the house right now.
With their star on the sideline, the Lakers are hold a 57-47 lead with 3:28 to go in the second quarter. The Lakers used a 13-0 run to take an 11-point lead before a layup from Jimmy Butler ended a nearly four-minute scoring brought for Miami.
James, with five points and seven assists in 14 minutes, has a plus/minus rating of minus-three so far, but the Lakers are keeping pressure on the Heat with Danny Green, who has eight points.
Lakers open six-point lead
The Lakers have their largest lead of the game, 49-43, with 6:09 to go in the second quarter.
Danny Green is now in on the three-point party, hitting a shot from distance for his first points of the game. He made 32% of his three-point shots in the series against the Nuggets.
Alex Caruso is three-for-three shooting from the field for seven points.
Lakers struggling against Miami’s three-point shooters
The Heat have made six-of-13 three-pointers, including three straight to go ahead 43-41 with 7:30 left in the second quarter.
Jae Crowder is three-of-four shooting from three-point range with nine points.
Lakers erase 13-point deficit early
The Lakers have entered the chat.
The No. 1 team in the Western Conference fell behind the East’s No. 5 seed by 13 in the first quarter, but rallied to take a 31-28 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Anthony Davis has 11 points and three rebounds, while LeBron James has five points, three assists and two rebounds.
Even when James went to the bench, the Lakers charged back behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 10 points, which included two three-pointers to erase their double-digit deficit.
Just like how Denver’s Nikola Jokic struggled with foul trouble in the Western Conference finals, keep an eye on the Heat’s Bam Adebayo, who picked up two fouls in the first quarter. He had six points and three rebounds before leaving in the final minutes.
About that ESPN/ABC broadcast compound in Orlando
LeBron James had just exited a Mickey Mouse-decorated bus last week when the superstar’s arrival for that night’s Lakers game was spotted by Camera 50, one of the nearly 100 remote-operated cameras stationed around Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
A half-mile away in a humid parking lot, James’ stone-faced entrance at HP Field House was registered by Mike Schwab, a television director scanning a wall of glowing, shoebox-sized feeds inside a 53-foot ESPN production truck. He could not linger on the image for long.
Surrounded by a producer, audio engineer, associate director and technician, Schwab was directing an afternoon game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz. With more than a minute to play before halftime, Jazz center Rudy Gobert had begun looping behind the defense for an alley-oop.
In the truck, a replay was queued up after the dunk. Then another. Viewers watching on regional networks in Memphis and Salt Lake City saw them seconds later.
“Oh, that’s nice!” a producer exclaimed.
The NBA and its players weren’t sure when they’d see highlights like this again while stuck in limbo for four months because of COVID-19. But they understood that the success of any restart plan would require adapting to the pandemic’s new reality — one location, daily testing, fewer staffers, more logistical hurdles.
As the league hammered out details to stage games, its television broadcast partners, including ESPN, scrambled to ensure fans would be able to watch them. They had no script to follow, only one question to avoid: If the NBA holds a 22-team restart but fans can’t watch in person, did it really happen?
The result has been tricked-out arenas, more remote-operated cameras than ever and basketball broadcasts that, by necessity, look like nothing else seen before. All of it is anchored by the bubble within the NBA’s bubble — a 200,000-square-foot broadcast production complex shared by ESPN and Turner Sports and connected to the Wide World of Sports complex by a short walk and 436 miles of fiber cable.
Miami starts out hot from three-point range
The Heat are three-of-three shooting from three-point range to start Game 1, including a shot from Jae Crowder that forced Lakers coach Frank Vogel to take an early timeout down 23-10 with 5:36 to go in the first.
I promise to limit heat/hot puns going forward.
Heat jump ahead in front of famous (virtual) fans
The Heat have jumped to a 16-10 lead with 6:45 to go in the first quarter behind six points and three rebounds from Bam Adebayo and five points from Jimmy Butler.
Anthony Davis scored the five first points for the Lakers. LeBron James has three points, two assists and one rebound.
As the No. 1 seed, the Lakers would typically be playing this game at Staples Center, where they commonly play to a star-studded audience. Fans are not in attendance in Orlando, but there is still star-power in the stands.
Ben Hong performs national anthem on cello before Game 1
Ben Hong performed the Game 1 national anthem through a pre-recorded video. The L.A. Philharmonic cellist also performed a poignant version of “Hallelujah” at Staples Center on Jan. 31 during a pregame memorial for Kobe Bryant.
ESPN analysts unanimously pick Lakers to win NBA championship
Paul Pierce struggled to get the words out, but the former Celtics star still said it: He thinks the Lakers will sweep the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Pierce was one of three ESPN analysts who picked the Lakers to win the championship before Game 1 on the network’s pregame show, although his prediction seemed the most bold. Jay Williams and Jalen Rose both picked the Lakers to win in six games.
A view of Lakers warmups
Tania Ganguli, The Times’ Lakers beat reporter, is keeping an eye on the team as it warms up before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Dwight Howard sticks in starting lineup
Dwight Howard will start his third straight game, keeping the starting center job over JaVale McGee, according to Spectrum reporter Mike Trudell.
Howard scored 12 and nine points in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference finals, respectively, after moving into the starting lineup to neutralize Denver center Nikola Jokic. McGee, scored seven combined points in the five-game conference finals series, never playing more than 12 minutes a game.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope round out the Lakers’ starting lineup.
An eerily quiet arena before Game 1
Times staff members make their predictions
The Los Angeles Lakers are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since Kobe Bryant led the franchise to its 16th title. Los Angeles Times sportswriters Tania Ganguli, Broderick Turner and Dan Woike discuss the Lakers’ chances to bring home the championship.
When the Lakers tip off against Miami on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, they will be a big favorite to win the championship.
Some predict in dominating fashion.
As Times columnist Bill Plaschke notes of the Heat: “They’re a sweet little story … but in this case, Cinderella gets bludgeoned.”
Here are the predictions from some Times staff members:
Bill Plaschke: Face it, the Lakers could beat a team of Miami Heat and Boston Celtics players combined. Left to battle the Lakers on their own, the sweet little Heat will quickly wither. They’re a sweet little story, and everyone outside of Los Angeles will be cheering for them, but in this case, Cinderella gets bludgeoned. For all their nice players — the Jimmy Butlers, Bam Adebayos and Tyler Herros of the world — they have no match for LeBron James, no counter to Anthony Davis, and no answer for the suffocating Lakers defense. The great Pat Riley isn’t coaching, and the Heat aren’t winning. LAKERS IN 4
Helene Elliott: Dwight Howard will get in foul trouble in one game and Duncan Robinson will go on a couple of three-point sprees, but a committed LeBron James and a committed Anthony Davis will overcome all challenges. LAKERS IN 5
Broderick Turner: The Lakers have been through too much — from the geopolitical fallout in China to Kobe Bryant’s tragic death to the COVID-19 pandemic — for them not to claim the franchise’s 17th title. And for LeBron James to cement his legacy among the Lakers’ faithful, he needs to win his fourth title while wearing the purple and gold. In every game, expect the Heat to be committed to putting up a fight, but Miami just doesn’t have enough firepower. LAKERS IN 5
Dan Woike: Miami’s zone and the Lakers’ spotty jump shooting are good enough reasons to think that the Heat will give the Lakers problems. Event though Miami has a lot of talent, the Lakers have the best talent — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — and it’s hard to see how those two players will allow the Lakers to lose four times. LAKERS IN 6
Adam Silver admits NBA bubble idea was ‘unrealistic’ at first
Initially resistant to the idea of resuming the NBA season in a bubble and skeptical such a setup could succeed, Commissioner Adam Silver said on Wednesday he is grateful for the “extraordinary sacrifices” made by players, teams, support staff, and league partners to stage the restart and playoffs under strict health protocols in Florida. The league’s success, he said, proved “it can be done, that you can strike a balance between public health and economic necessity.”
Silver spoke to the media less than an hour before the Lakers and the Miami Heat met in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the league’s showcase event. He said three themes governed the league’s planning with the National Basketball Players Assn., and listed them as whether it could be done logistically, how the health and safety of everyone involved could be protected, and, he added, “as events unfolded in the country, social justice became one of those themes as well.”
Players have been promoting the Black Lives Matter movement and have worn social justice-related phrases on the back of their respective uniforms.
“I’m most proud that we collectively came together as a community and pulled this off,” Silver said during a video conference.
He added the 2020-21 season won’t begin before Christmas and that a January start is more likely in order to give players a reasonable mental and physical break. The fact that cases of COVID-19 “are ticking up” in some states means the league will again consider some kind of bubble format next season. All conditions must be negotiated with the players’ union.
He also said it’s unclear when the league can get back to the customary fall through early summer cycle. He said playing through the summer, with competition for viewers, adversely affected the size of TV audiences.
Silver said he hopes fans eventually will be allowed into buildings, but couldn’t say when. “It’s dependent on some additional advancements. Rapid testing may be the key here,” he said.
Having a widely available COVID-19 vaccine is not a prerequisite for allowing fans to attend games, he said.
“My sense is that with rapid testing, it may not be that we’ll have 19,000 people in the building. We’ll see,” he said. “But that with appropriate protocols in terms of distancing and with advanced testing that you will be able to bring fans back into arenas. … I’m hopeful that based on what we’re learning, based on protocols, based on testing, we will be able to have games with fans next season prior to the distribution of a vaccine.”
NBA Finals: How the Lakers and Heat match up for the series
A look at how the top-seeded Lakers from the Western Conference and fifth-seeded Miami Heat from the Eastern Conference match up in the NBA Finals:
Lakers; Ht.; Pos.; Ht.; Heat
LeBron James; 6-9; F; 6-7; Jimmy Butler
Anthony Davis; 6-10; F; 6-6; Jae Crowder
Dwight Howard; 6-10; C; 6-9; Bam Adebayo
Danny Green; 6-6; G/F; 6-7; Duncan Robinson
K. Caldwell-Pope; 6-5; G; 6-3; Goran Dragic
The Lakers and James are on a mission to win the championship. James has an elite running mate in Davis to help accomplish that goal. During these playoffs, James is eighth in scoring (26.7) and third in assists (8.9) while Davis is fifth in scoring (28.8). The Heat are tough, hard-nosed and led by Butler, who embodies all that for Miami. Butler has help in Adebayo, who is fourth in the postseason in rebounding (11.4).
Lakers; Ht.; Pos.; Ht.; Heat
Alex Caruso; 6-5; G; 6-5; Tyler Herro
Kyle Kuzma; 6-8; F; 6-6; Andre Iguodala
JaVale McGee; 7-0; C; 6-11; Kelly Olynyk
Markieff Morris; 6-8; F; 6-6; Derrick Jones
Rajon Rondo; 6-1; G; 6-2; Kendrick Nunn
Whether it has been Caruso, Kuzma, Rondo or Morris, the Lakers’ reserves have been stars in their roles throughout the playoffs. They have made timely shots, gotten steals in critical moments, provided solid defense and let the veteran Rondo, who has a ring, lead the cast. The Heat have a sage veteran in Iguodala, who faced James in four consecutive NBA Finals as a member of Golden State, and have gotten some great offense from Herro, a rookie who made a name for himself by averaging 19.2 points in the Eastern Conference finals, including a 37-point outburst in Game 4 against the Celtics.
When the Lakers are on offense
They must be prepared for the variety of defenses the Heat will employ — from man to man to zones to double-team traps. Then again, James has seen every defense there is, and the ball will be in his hands to make the right decisions. When Davis plays center, he will encounter a dogged defender in Adebayo, but Davis is so multi-skilled that he should have success.
When the Heat are on offense
Miami will attack inside with Butler and Dragic off the dribble. Miami also moves bodies and the ball and looks for three-point shooters moving into open spots, especially in transition. The Heat are not afraid to run some offense through Adebayo. So, the Lakers will have to especially run out to Miami’s three-point shooters on the fast break and the Lakers may not be able to play a lot of zone in this series.
Frank Vogel has pushed all the right buttons in getting the Lakers to the Finals and deserves credit for doing a good job all season. Vogel has kept the Lakers’ eyes on the prize, and that is a championship. Miami‘s Eric Spoelstra is one of the best in the business at what he does. He has a bright mind for the game and is always prepared.
The Lakers have been through so much this season, most notably having to come to grips with the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others killed a helicopter crash. They have endured, staying focused and driven to win a title in honor of Bryant. Miami has not backed down to any challenges in the postseason, showing just how mentally tough the group is and has to be with venerable team president Pat Riley always peering.
Guess who’s back?
Tania Ganguli is back in the bubble. The Times’ Lakers beat reporter began the NBA restart in the inner-most tier of the league’s ecosystem and returned for the NBA Finals, this time watching from the stands in the second tier of access.
This Lakers-Heat rivalry runs deep with player-coach connections
The uber-competitive Pat Riley that Magic Johnson knows from winning four championships when Riley was the coach of the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s is the same man who helped rebuild the Miami Heat into a contender for the 2020 NBA title.
The driven Riley that Johnson knows, who became one of the best executives in the NBA, winning two championships with LeBron James when he called Miami home from 2010 to 2014, is the same Riley who’s pulling for the Heat to defeat James in the NBA Finals.
“Pat is a competitor, so he wants to win,” Johnson said by phone. “I think now even more so because you got the Lakers team he used to coach and you got LeBron, a guy you won two championships with in Miami. But we have to remember that by nature he’s such a competitive guy. Even if it wasn’t us, he would want to win so bad.”
Johnson, who recruited James to win a title while he was the Lakers’ president of basketball operations for a little more than two years, wants to see James realize the vision the two shared. He also yearns to see owner Jeanie Buss follow in the giant footsteps of her late dad, Jerry Buss, and bring home a championship.
“I want it for Jeanie because I want her to make her father proud, make the fans proud, herself proud as one of the first women in sports to win a title,” Johnson said. “And then LeBron. For him to say, ‘Hey Earvin, I’m taking this leap of faith that you guys are going to do what you say you are going to do to put the proper pieces around.’ I want it for him too because I think that he has got us back to where we belong as an organization and fans can be proud of the things that he’s promised, to get us here to the championship, and let’s see if he can deliver the championship. It would be a great story.
Could not have said it better
Dan Woike, The Times’ NBA reporter, has been to the NBA Finals multiple times.
Here he shows us a striking scene: no media scrum before Lakers coach Frank Vogel’s pregame news conference.
LeBron James believes Erik Spoelstra deserves more credit for Heat success
After the Heat clinched a spot in the NBA Finals two games later, Butler dug even deeper into his closet for the perfect sartorial tribute — a University of Portland jersey with Erik Spoelstra’s name and number on the back.
“I’ve got quite a few jerseys tucked away in my room — it’s just when is the right time to pull them out,” Butler said Tuesday on the eve of his NBA Finals debut. “But Spo has been huge for me in my growth here as a player, as a leader, as a human being, so I’m grateful for him.”
Spoelstra’s journey to a place alongside the NBA’s best coaches has been well-chronicled. He, like Lakers coach Frank Vogel, began working from inside NBA film rooms, with one rival executive joking that there’s never been a better time for a video coordinator to try to get a promotion.
LeBron James defended Spoelstra from any perceived disrespect that came from their time together in Miami, when pundits thought anyone could coach James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Complete coverage of NBA Finals previews
More than a dozen stories, columns, videos and information leading into the NBA Finals.
LeBron James grew into a champion during his days with Miami Heat
He said he’d win multiple championships in Miami, so everyone held James accountable right away. Eventually he did, but it took growth and change, which is why he went there in the first place.
“I was still a kid and still trying to figure out who I am as a person and as a man, growing while still trying to compete for a championship every single year,” James said. “I grew, and they allowed me to grow. We pushed each other every single day, and like I said, I fit perfectly in that culture because I worked just as hard as anybody else.”
The Lakers will play the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, starting a series that calls back to James’ past. By the time he joined the Lakers in 2018, he was a 33-year-old man who had grown into who he was and knew exactly what it took to win championships, having won two with the Heat and one upon his return to the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014. He came to the Lakers on a streak of eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances, and nine total in his career.
Now James has the opportunity to lead the Lakers to the franchise’s 17th championship. It’s a role he has in part because of who he became while playing for their opponent in this year’s Finals.
“Being a part of that culture allowed me to grow, allowed me to see what it takes to not only compete for a championship but also to win a championship,” James said. “So it definitely put me in a position where I knew what it took. I saw what it took. But also I fit that culture as well because of how hard I worked. It was a perfect match for those four years.”
How Kobe Bryant’s signature shoes keep him close to the players
Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, an assistant coach with the Lakers, looked at his sneakers while standing on the court. His eyes fixated on the logo atop the tongue of the white and black low-top shoes, the sheath that’s become synonymous with Kobe Bryant.
It might seem like a little thing, but a lot had to happen for Kidd to be here, inside the NBA bubble, wearing one of his favorite pairs of shoes. He packed four pairs for the team’s trip.
“When you’re on the other side, you never want to wear the enemy’s shoe. That’s an old-school thing for me. If Kobe saw that, he’d think, ‘Oh, he idolizes me. I’ve got him,’” Kidd said.
The reason why Kidd wouldn’t wear the shoes before is the reason why so many are wearing them now, Bryant’s signature kicks becoming the unofficially most popular shoe in the bubble. At the Lakers’ practice Tuesday, at least 13 players, coaches and staff members wore Bryant‘s shoes.