Good morning, folks. The Miami Heat made it three rounds without anyone suffering a significant injury. Then the Finals happened. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
NBA FINALS RECAP
LOS ANGELES LAKERS – 116 MIAMI HEAT – 98 [LAL leads 1-0]
For the first nine minutes of the 2020 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat came out looking like the team that had just skated through three really good playoff opponents. As expected, Miami elected to slot Jae Crowder on Anthony Davis with Bam Adebayo defending Dwight Howard in the post, and they saw immediate success. Through the playmaking skills of Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, Miami was locked in throughout the majority of the first quarter. They jetted out to a 23-10 lead halfway through the period thanks to a 13-0 run, forcing a Lakers timeout. However, that was the last time this game would ever favor the Heat.
From the 3:00 minute mark of the first quarter on, the Lakers put on an absolute clinic on both ends of the floor. Davis rattled off six quick points before the period came to a close and a 13-point Heat lead was swapped in favor of a three-point Laker advantage heading into the second quarter. From the time that Miami took a 23-10 lead to the time the third quarter came to a close, L.A. had outscored the Heat 83-44. Yes, that’s a real number…
Slowly, injuries began to pile up for Miami. First, it was Butler, who rolled his ankle quite severely in the first half but would stay in the game and finished out the night. Then a mystery injury for Dragic popped up on social media and by the end of the night, he was diagnosed with torn plantar fascia in his left foot, jeopardizing his return to the series. Worst of all, Bam Adebayo appeared to reinjure the same shoulder that initially gave him troubles in the Eastern Conference Finals. His initial x-rays came back negative, which is definitely a good sign, but he left the game in the third quarter on Wednesday night and was in clear discomfort. He’s been diagnosed with a shoulder strain. Once the second half rolled around, Miami was out two of its three best players and the supporting cast was struggling to find the basket.
Heat rookie Tyler Herro, in particular, played with some inaugural NBA Finals jitters. For the first time all playoffs, Herro looked uncomfortable and the Lakers should be owed a ton of credit for that. From the second Herro came in the game off the bench, L.A. began to hunt for Herro on defense and was blitzing him whenever he touched the ball. The former Wildcat isn’t used to being the focus of his opponent’s attention and it gave him fits all night long; heavily contested jump shots were nowhere close and LeBron James was picking on him in the pick-and-roll every possession down the court.
Herro finished with 14 points (meaning he’s still managed to hit double-digit scoring in every playoff game thus far), four rebounds, and three assists in his first-ever Finals appearance at 20 years old, but shot 6-18 from the field and was a disastrous minus-35 in the box score while playing 30 minutes. It was even more pronounced during the first 24 minutes, when Herro somehow posted a -30 in just 17 minutes played. While that’s not a sole indictment of Herro’s on-court play (Andre Iguodala was a -27 in 13 first-half minutes, as well) it sure wasn’t a vote of confidence to keep him in. He finished the night -35 in 30 minutes, tied for the worst plus/minus by a player in the Finals since 2000. Plain and simple: the Lakers picked on him. But that being said, I don’t expect that to continue to this effect. Herro will adjust and he’ll be more prepared for the Lakers gameplan in Game 2.
Honestly, Herro is going to have to play better in Game 2 for Miami to have even a modicum of a shot to come back in this series. Dragic is likely going to miss extended time and possibly the rest of the series, which will lead to the reinsertion of a rusty rookie in Kendrick Nunn, whose role in the rotation was all but eliminated once the Bubble began. Adebayo’s status is still up-in-the-air, although most expect him to play. The same goes for Butler, who would have to have to his ankle physically chopped off from his leg in order to sit out a Finals game. But Miami is banged up and the Lakers are cruising.
Davis, especially, put on a show in his first-ever Finals game. The former ‘Cat posted 34 points on 11-21 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and just one turnover in 38 minutes. Most notably, he didn’t miss a shot at the charity stripe, connecting on a perfect 10-10. Davis dropped 11 points in the first quarter and then another 12 in the third while playing excellent defense all across the floor for L.A. After averaging just six rebounds per outing against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, Davis snatched nine boards on Wednesday as the Lakers outrebounded Miami 54-36. Not a bad start to his NBA Finals career, is it?
“First time I’m experiencing this,” Davis said after the game. “Obviously want to come out and play well and you want to come out and win. I’ve always put pressure on myself. I had the same thing [during] Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, as well. When the ball gets tipped up, all that goes away and it’s just basketball, but everything leading up to it, you’re very excited.
Davis’ 34 points in his Finals debut were tied for the third-most ever by a member of the Lakers, matching the great Elgin Baylor, who dropped 34 back in 1959. Only Shaquille O’Neal (43 in 2000) and George Mikan (42 in 1949) have recorded more.
Rajon Rondo added seven points, three rebounds, and four assists in 24 minutes for the Lakers.
Former @kentuckymbb players have scored 1,898 points so far this postseason, already the most by any school in a single postseason in NBA history ?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 30, 2020
The Lakers’ largest lead of the evening peaked at 32 points and they did not trail once for the final 30 minutes. Miami was able to stage a bit of a late comeback with the reserves in the game, trimming the lead down to just 13 with roughly three minutes left, but LeBron James added two easy buckets at the rim that put the game away for good. In Game 1 of his 10th career NBA Finals appearance, LeBron registered 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists.
The game truly began to flip on its side after Adebayo picked up two quick fouls right before the first quarter came to a close. Miami was already hemorrhaging points and his departure to the bench–coupled with LeBron coming back in the game–provided an opening for the Lakers. Miami still had the lead before Adebayo went to the pine, but they trailed by four when he came back in a few minutes later. L.A. never looked back. Adebayo only played 21 minutes as the fouls and eventual shoulder injury heavily limited his impact. He finished with just eight points and four rebounds.
Looking ahead to Game 2, there are some obvious changes that need to be made for Miami. LeBron and Davis were having a field day in isolation situations while the entire team was dominating the glass. It might be time to experiment a bit with Kelly Olynyk, a 6-foot-11 stretch forward who can open up some offensive space for guys like Butler and Adebayo while fighting for boards. On defense, something has to change. LeBron can’t continue to pick out his mismatches all night long as he did on Wednesday. Trapping him up top might help that or even breaking out the zone defense more often (which they didn’t do much of at all in Game 1). Either way, Miami has to adjust.
Game 2 is Friday night.
|Anthony Davis (LAL)||116-98 W vs. MIA||34||11-21 (2-4)||9||5||0||3||1||+23||38|
|Tyler Herro (MIA)||98-116 L @ LAL||14||6-18 (2-8)||4||3||0||0||2||-35||30|
|Bam Adebayo (MIA)||98-116 L @ LAL||8||2-8 (0-0)||4||0||0||0||0||-12||21|
|Rajon Rondo (LAL)||116-98 W vs. MIA||7||2-7 (1-5)||3||4||0||0||1||+11||24|