LeBron James is not accustomed to Game 1s like these.
James’s teams lost the series opener in eight of his previous nine trips to the N.B.A. finals, but Wednesday night’s start to the 2020 finals against the Miami Heat went as well as James and the Los Angeles Lakers could have hoped. The Lakers cruised to a 116-98 victory after stretching their lead to as many as 32 points in the third quarter.
Anthony Davis rumbled for a dominant 34 points, and James added an efficient 25 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists for a near triple-double. And the Lakers, after a slow start, dominated in numerous key categories while the Heat quickly faced multiple injury scares.
While the Lakers were dominating the boards (54-36) and limiting the Heat to just 14 trips to the free-throw line, Miami lost point guard Goran Dragic (left foot) for the entire second half and center Bam Adebayo (left shoulder) for most of it.
Goran Dragic’s status for the rest of the NBA Finals remains TBD, according to a league source, after he sustained a plantar tear in his left foot. A return in this series has not yet been ruled out
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 1, 2020
Jimmy Butler managed to stay on the floor to log 33 minutes despite rolling his left ankle late in the first half and led the Heat with 23 points. Miami, though, has little shot to keep this series competitive without Dragic or Adebayo — especially when Davis and James are rolling like they were in Game 1.
Here’s how the Los Angeles Lakers won Game 1.
Take a peek inside the arena.
Times sportswriter Scott Cacciola is reporting from inside the N.B.A. bubble at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.
The Lakers haven’t won a championship in 10 years.
Sports fans tend to be irrational, and many Lakers fans are surely so: They expect to win a championship every season. Over the first decade of this century, they almost did.
The Lakers won championships in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010. The last one — in seven games over the Boston Celtics — brought the franchise total to 16 championships.
Of course, Celtics fans will be quick to point out that 16 are great and all, but 17 — their 17 championships — are better. That’s the N.B.A. record.
Former President Barack Obama is one of the virtual fans.
(He’s in the bottom row, next to Shaquille O’Neal.)
1st Quarter: The Lakers fight back from their deficit with 3-pointers.
Miami’s Jae Crowder came into the N.B.A. finals mired in a 4-for-28 slump from the 3-point line. All Crowder did in the first quarter was make his first two 3s and start out defensively against the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, allowing his teammate Bam Adebayo to roam freely early on the defensive end.
Moving the ball crisply and getting everyone involved as this team is known to do, Miami surged to an early 23-10 lead. Back-to-back 3s from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, with LeBron James resting on the bench, kept the Lakers from losing touch early. Caldwell-Pope’s 3s sparked a 21-5 run from the Lakers to close the opening quarter and surge into a 31-28 lead — with a corner triple from the Lakers reserve Alex Caruso capping the comeback.
Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra’s reaction:
Steph, LeBron and Klay are 1-2-3 in finals 3-pointers.
N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said the league ‘can do better’ on diversity.
Silver acknowledged in a pregame news conference that the league “can do better” when it comes to the hiring of Black head coaches.
“I don’t see a way to operate a league where the league office, the commissioner, is dictating to a team who they should or shouldn’t hire. Or who they should and shouldn’t fire, frankly,” Silver said in response to a question about whether the league should institute its own version of the Rooney rule — the N.F.L. policy that teams must interview people of color for coaching positions.
In the last year, several Black coaches have been dismissed or resigned, including Doc Rivers, who mutually parted ways with the Los Angeles Clippers this week. There are five more head coach openings in Philadelphia, Indiana, New Orleans, Houston and Oklahoma City. White coaches have filled previous openings this season with the Knicks, Nets and Bulls — with Tom Thibodeau, Steve Nash and Billy Donovan being hired.
“We’re in discussions with all of those teams about making sure there’s a diverse slate of candidates,” Silver said, adding, “Let’s talk again after we fill these six positions and see where we are because I know we can do better.”
Silver also said at the news conference that many of the details for next season were still up in the air. He reiterated that the earliest start would be Christmas — “a traditional tentpole day for the league” — but that it was more likely to begin in January. He also said it was the league’s goal to have fans in seats, even before a vaccine has been widely distributed, “dependent on some additional advancements.”
“Rapid testing may be the key here,” Silver said.
Bam Adebayo is one of Miami’s breakout stars.
As Bam Adebayo’s college coach, John Calipari is admittedly biased but also unapologetic when he gushes about his former player and how much the burgeoning Miami Heat star has improved since imploring Calipari to bring him to the University of Kentucky.
“He reached out to us,” Calipari said. “He was like, ‘Why isn’t Kentucky recruiting me?’
“He didn’t ask me how many guys I had,” Calipari continued. “He didn’t ask me if I was going to recruit anybody else like him or, ‘Am I going to get the ball all the time?’ He’s built different.”
Adebayo has proved it all year, ascending to All-Star status in his third N.B.A. season and playing with distinction in the league’s bubble.
Halftime: The Lakers find their shot and take the lead.
After a slow start, the Lakers recovered quickly and entered halftime with a commanding lead, 65-48.
The Heat led by 13 in the first quarter, but the Lakers got hot from the perimeter and took a 31-28 lead at the end of the first. In the second quarter, the Lakers outscored the Heat, 34-20.
The Lakers did much of their damage from deep, shooting 11 of 17 from 3. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 18 points on 11 shots. LeBron James had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The Heat offense was carried by Jimmy Butler, who scored 16 points and dished out 4 assists. Miami only shot 43 percent from the field.
It’s … intense.
Miami’s Goran Dragic is hurt.
A tough break for Miami to start the second half: Goran Dragic, the team’s dynamic point guard, suffered a left foot injury and is doubtful to return, the team announced. Dragic averaged 16.2 points and 5.1 assists during the regular season. In the playoffs, his production had increased to 20.9 points a game.
The Lakers push their lead to 26.
Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Jimmy Butler has 19 points for the Heat.
3rd Quarter: It doesn’t look good for the Heat.
The Heat’s Bam Adebayo picked up his second foul with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Seemingly from that point, Miami’s night cratered.
Adebayo’s early foul trouble helped fuel the Lakers’ comeback from an early 13-point deficit — and Los Angeles hasn’t relinquished the momentum.
The Lakers expanded their lead to as many as 32 points in the third quarter, capitalizing on their uncharacteristically strong shooting from 3-point range and the Heat’s sudden injury concerns: Jimmy Butler rolled his left ankle late in the first half, Goran Dragic was knocked out of the game by a left foot injury, and Adebayo appeared to hurt his shoulder in the third quarter.
For the first time in these playoffs, Miami appears headed for a Game 1 defeat. The Heat swept Indiana in the first round, won the first three games of their second-round series against Milwaukee and the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston.
The greatest player in Heat history: Dwyane Wade.
This is the new era of the Miami Heat, a remarkable transition so soon after leaving the one led by Dwyane Wade. If the Heat upset the Lakers, it will be their first championship without Wade on the roster. He played for the team from 2003 to 2016, and then again for his final season, in 2018-19.
He became the greatest player in Heat history, helping lead the team to three championships. He made 13 All-Star teams (one was an honorary selection). He was one of the virtual fans in attendance on Wednesday night.
Wade appeared on NBA TV with his former teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, with whom he won a championship in 2006, ahead of Game 1. “People say, ‘If the Heat win, are you going to be jealous? Are you going to feel a certain kind of way?’ ” Wade said. “My answer to that is, ‘Hell no.’ I want to be a part of that legacy. I was the first to do it.”
This has been the longest N.B.A. season ever.
Do you remember being shocked by the cascade of trades and free-agent signings in the N.B.A.? There was a time when that was what would elicit gasps from fans. But last off-season — call it the Summer of Player Empowerment — was just the tip of the iceberg for this bizarre N.B.A. season that, at times, seemed stranger than fiction.
There was the N.B.A. finding itself embroiled in a conflict with an international superpower as well as the United States government — all over a general manager’s tweet. Followed by the shocking deaths of Kobe Bryant and David Stern. The Knicks being the Knicks. Several high-profile injuries and then: the season’s postponement as a result of the pandemic, followed by months of social unrest.
But the finish line is in sight. At a time when teams would normally be gearing up for a new season, the N.B.A. is still trying to complete the old one. It’s been a long year, so you’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember all the twists and turns that brought us here.
Here is a rundown of the strangest N.B.A. campaign in the league’s history.
The Heat are still fighting, and limping.
Miami has cut the Lakers’ lead to 17 points with 4:18 to go in the fourth quarter. But they are hurting.
Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (shoulder) are done for the game, and Jimmy Butler is clearly limping after rolling his ankle at the end of the first half.