LeBron James finally won an opening NBA finals game as the Los Angeles Lakers took control of the seven-game series with victory in Game 1 against an injury-plagued Miami Heat in the early hours of Thursday.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points, James had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists as the Los Angeles Lakers cruised past the Miami Heat 116-98.
“The bigger the moment, he’s just raising his play,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said about Davis, who was making his finals debut and made it look easy.
The Heat suffered injuries that could derail their challenge in the rest of the series with point guard Goran Dragic departing in the second quarter with a reported torn plantar fascia in his left foot — which obviously jeopardizes his availability for the rest of the finals. And All-Star center Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a left shoulder strain.
“We’re much better than we showed tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to credit the Lakers, and we’ll get to work for the next one.”
Game 2 is Friday night.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 13 points, Danny Green had 11 and Alex Caruso finished with 10 for the Lakers.
They returned to the finals for the first time in a decade and sent a very clear message. James’ teams had been 1-8 in Game 1 of past finals, with losses in each of the last seven openers.
Jimmy Butler fought through a twisted left ankle to score 23 points for Miami. Kendrick Nunn scored 18 points for the Heat, Tyler Herro had 14 and Jae Crowder 12.
“I, and we, are here for him,” Butler said about Dragic. “We know how much he wants to win, how much he wants to go to war and battle with us. And obviously, we love him for that and we want him out there with us. But whatever the docs tell him to do, that’s what he’s got to do. … He’s got to take care of himself first.”
Adebayo was held to eight points in 21 minutes, and Miami went with subs for a fourth-quarter burst that turned a total rout into something only slightly more palatable in terms of final margin.
The Lakers did whatever they wanted. They outrebounded Miami 54-36, led by as many as 32 points, and made 15 3-pointers — a big number for a team that doesn’t necessarily count on piling up that many points from beyond the arc.
They’re 21-3 this season when making at least 14 3s.
The only stretch that provided hope for Miami came in the first six minutes. The Heat scored on six consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead midway through the opening period.
So, the first six minutes were fine for Miami.
Everything else was all Lakers.
“You have to get a feel for how hard Miami plays,” James said. “They smacked us in the mouth and we got a sense of that. … From that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities.”