In a “David vs. Goliath” matchup, sometimes David gets off to a fast start. Sure, there’s a feeling-out process between both parties. But the underdog, playing with no pressure, showcases their talents with ease. The Goliath takes time to adjust, before grappling their opponent and taking control of the moment. Such was the case in Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.
The Heat got off to the perfect start, taking a 23-10 lead in the first quarter. From converting threes to creating baskets in transition, the Heat took advantage of the Laker turnovers. Their talents were on full display. They weren’t intimidated by the moment.
Los Angeles Lakers Dominate Interior in Game One of the NBA Finals
Los Angeles Lakers Take 1-0 Lead in NBA Finals
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel called a timeout to gather his team. Coming out of that pause, the Lakers became the Goliath, thanks to unlikely players. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope converted two critical three-pointers. Anthony Davis made a driving layup, thanks to an assist from Rajon Rondo. Even Alex Caruso, the dynamic undrafted guard, made a three-pointer late in the first quarter, giving the Lakers their first lead of the game.
The Lakers never looked back, propelling themselves to a 116-98 victory in Game 1. For Vogel, he credits those moments after the timeout in the first quarter, as the turning point for his team.
“In particular in the first quarter we were struggling to score a little bit,” Vogel said to reporters after the game. “We got some clean looks early, but couldn’t knock them down. But I think Kenny had 10 points in the quarter. When you’re struggling to score, for a guy to step up and make some plays like that on the offensive end, just gave us a big lift. With the guys that came in and subbed in, they helped turn that quarter around.”
How the Game was Won
One of the big questions entering this series was how the Lakers superstars would matchup against the Heat interior defense. Bam Adebayo, the rising star big man for the Heat, entered the Finals ranked seventh in rebounds per game (10.9) and player impact estimate (15.2). Using Adebayo’s size to crowd the paint is a must if the Heat is going to slow down Davis and LeBron James.
In Game 1, the Heat could not contain the James/Davis pick and roll offense. Davis put up 34 points on 52.4 percent shooting, while James recorded 25 points on 52.9 percent from the field. It’s the seventh time in the 2020 Playoffs that each has scored 25+ points with over 50 percent shooting from the floor, the most by any tandem in a single postseason.
“I just wanted to come out with a lot of energy,” Davis said postgame. “You know, be aggressive on the offensive glass. Playing in a dunker’s area, when Bron and Do [Rondo] and AC [Alex Caruso] get in the paint, they got easy dump-offs. And not settling for too many jumpers, just being able to play in the paint and dominate the paint area. That was kind of my mindset coming into the game.”
Dominate the Paint, Knock Down Triples
😤 AD's getting it done on the glass and is up to 22 PTS! #NBAFinals
GAME 1 ON ABC pic.twitter.com/PaXCqZuNMT
— NBA (@NBA) October 1, 2020
As you can see above, Davis had tremendous success in the paint against the Heat defense. Jae Crowder could not come up with the rebound, allowing Davis to retrieve the loose ball. With Dwight Howard guarding Adebayo, Davis used his size and hustle to muscle his way towards the basket. Even though Crowder blocked the second attempt, Davis retrieved the loose ball and secured the put-back.
The length disparity between the Lakers and Heat was evident in Game 1. The majority of the Lakers field goals came from underneath the basket and in the paint, as well as from beyond the arc. The Lakers recorded 15 three-pointers, the most of them as a result of kick-outs to the corners. Despite the Lakers ranking 21st in three-point shooting among NBA bubble teams, they had a lot of good looks, a result of the Heat defenders not covering the perimeter.
Hi, hello: @NekiasNBA here.
Before the series, Jimmy Butler said the Heat would have to play perfect basketball to beat this Laker team. We, uh, clearly did not see that last night.
Here's an example of how one false step spells death against LeBron James.
🗣️ SOUND ON pic.twitter.com/e8XF1puhov
— BasketballNews.com (@basketbllnews) October 1, 2020
Look no further than Caruso’s three-pointer in the first quarter, which started with James drawing two defenders towards him, passing to a wide-open Anthony Davis, who then swings it to the Laker guard. There is too much space between Davis and Caruso, allowing the pass to occur, leading to the made three.
“You don’t want to leave anything to chance in The Finals, so we have to just be a lot better, more resolve, more commitment, more multiple efforts, more communication, all of these things, more trust, we have to be much better on that end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game.”
Getting in the Zone
The Heat attempted to implement their stout zone defense. It’s a hallmark tactic for this team; when using 2-3 or 3-2 zone, the Lakers shot 3-of-19 against the Heat. But in Game 1, the Lakers combatted the Heat zone with the high screen and roll, often through James.
James is such a physical force that when one of his big men set a screen, the Heat zone defense broke down, allowing the Laker superstar to attack the basket with relative ease.
However, James insisted that his team doesn’t get too cocky. In the fourth quarter, the Heat outscored the Lakers 116-98. James called his team’s performance in the fourth quarter “unacceptable.”
“I’ve experienced moments in my career where you have all the momentum in the world and you felt like you had the game under control, and one play here or one play there could change the course of a series or change the course of a game,” James said.
“One in particular that always rings home for me is Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals in Miami versus Dallas. D-Wade hits a three right by their bench. I believe it put us up either 13 or 17. From that moment on, Dallas went on a hell of a run and finished it off with a Dirk Nowitzki left-hand layup to steal that game. That s**t burns me to this day.”
The injuries to Goran Dragic (torn left plantar fascia), Bam Adebayo, and Jimmy Butler are devastating blows to the Heat. We’re one game into the Finals and it’s evident that the size of the “Goliath” Lakers are overpowering the “David” Heat.