Welp, that was a breathtaking beatdown.
Game 1s haven’t always featured the Lakers’ best effort this postseason, but Los Angeles put on a blistering performance that was downright scary Wednesday in the first game of the NBA Finals that left the Heat wondering what the hell happened and plenty of observers questioning if this series will be over after three more games.
Calling a sweep after Game 1 might be premature and could easily make plenty of people on the timeline look foolish who already declared the series over. But behind superb 3-point shooting in the first half, swarming defense, and the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis—who the Heat predictably had no answers for—the Lakers made this one a laugher. After trailing by 13 points early in the first quarter, the Lakers quickly morphed into juggernauts and rolled to a 116-98 trouncing of the Heat.
"You know, from that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities," James said. "We started flying around. We started getting defensive stops. We started sharing the ball a lot better offensively and just got into a really good groove."
Did they ever. James finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists while Davis once again led the Lakers in scoring this postseason, pouring in a ferocious 34 points and grabbing 9 boards in his NBA Finals debut.
Los Angeles began the run to the Finals losing its first two Game 1s against Portland and Houston and many were on-guard to see if the upstart Heat—the first No. 5 seed to make the Finals in NBA history—could steal a victory over heavily favored LA. But after a sluggish Lakers start that saw the Heat run out to a quick double-digit lead, LA orchestrated a 16-point turnaround to close out the first quarter, reeled off 13 straight points in the second quarter with James largely on the sidelines, and entered halftime with a 17-point lead that ballooned to a laughable 32-point deficit in the third quarter before putting it into cruise control in the fourth.
Miami struggled all night against the Lakers' superior size, failed to hit threes, got little from its starters, and didn’t show much fight after halftime.
Adding injury to insult, the Heat saw one of their starters miss the second half of the game with a foot issue (Goran Dragic), their most indispensable player limp around after turning an ankle (Jimmy Butler), and their prized young big grimace in pain from a shoulder strain (Bam Adebayo). You could call what went down for the Heat in Game 1 a disaster, but honestly that might be an understatement.
“The Lakers set the tenor, the tone, the force, the physicality, for the majority of the game and they just took control and we weren't able to get it back,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game.
Game 2 is Friday and if the Heat do not figure something out—and worse, are missing the services of some of their key contributors—the Lakers look like they’re going to waltz to the franchise’s 17th NBA title.
"There's nothing to be said. We can watch all the film in the world, we understand, we know what we did not do, what we talked about we were going to do, we didn't do," Butler said. "We didn't rebound, we didn't make them miss any shots, we didn't get back, all of those things led to the deficit that we put ourselves in."
Here are eight other observations from Game 1.