MIAMI: Anthony Davis and LeBron James powered Los Angeles to a 124-114 victory over the Miami Heat on Friday that put the Lakers two wins away from their first NBA title since 2010. The injury depleted Heat hung on as best they could, but 33 points from James and 32 from Davis were just too much. Davis, playing in his first NBA Finals, overpowered a Heat defense sorely missing injured Bam Adebayo.
He added 14 rebounds as the Lakers took a two games to none lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals in the league’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida. “He’s a big-time player,” James, playing in his 10th championship series, said of Davis, whose 14 rebounds included eight offensive boards. “He understands the position we’re in.”
Davis made 14 of his first 15 shots from the field, finishing with 15 baskets in 20 attempts. For the second straight game James approached a triple-double, adding nine assists and nine rebounds. Rajon Rondo added 16 points off the bench and Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 11 points apiece for the Lakers. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 25 points and Kelly Olynyk added 24 off the bench as the Heat had to make do not only without Adebayo but with star guard Goran Dragic, who was sidelined by a left foot injury.
Even without them, James said, Miami remained a dangerous team, adding that the Lakers need to clamp down harder defensively. “Myself, coach and AD were not happy with our defensive presence tonight,” James said. “We can do a lot better. “Myself and AD, we’re not satisfied with just the win. We want to be great. “They have five guys on the floor that’s a threat, as they showed tonight,” James added of Miami. “So we have to continue to stay on our P’s and Q’s and cross our T’s and dot our I’s through the course of a game.” Stung by the Heat’s quick start in game one, the Lakers came out of the blocks hot.
Chasing a record-equalling 17th NBA title but their first in a decade, the Lakers dominated inside, outscoring the Heat 18-6 in the paint in the first quarter to emerge from the opening period six points up. Danny Green’s three-pointer pushed the Lakers lead to 13 three minutes into the second quarter. The Heat got the deficit down to four three times, but Rondo, a former NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, came up big off the Lakers’ bench, delivering impressive alley-oup passes first to James and then to Davis, whose dunk and free throw made it 64-49 with 1:48 remaining in the first half.
Rondo himself drove for a layup in the final minute of the half that stretched the Lakers’ lead to 17 points, and they took a 68-54 advantage into the break. The Lakers connected on 55.5% of their shots from the field in the opening half. They were less successful from three-point range but not from lack of trying, connecting on nine of their whopping 27 first-half attempts from beyond the arc. They finished with 16 three-pointers on an astonishing 47 attempts. Davis poured it on in the third quarter, piling up 15 points on an array of shots-jumpers, a step-back three and a driving floater just the beginning.
Moments of truth
Although the Lakers stretched the lead to 18 points multiple times, the Heat wouldn’t go away. They out-scored Los Angeles 39-35 in the period-but in the end they just didn’t have sufficient stopping power and they couldn’t get the deficit below nine points in the final quarter. “We need a little bit more from everybody, whatever that is,” Olynyk said. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledged that the Heat face a tough challenge against the bigger, physical Lakers.
“In those moments of truth when we had opportunities to get the game closer it usually seemed to end up in an offensive rebound or something near the basket,” Spoelstra said. “But this is the deal. If you want something badly enough you’ll figure out how to overcome it. “They have great size and Anthony Davis is an elite player. We’re trying to get something accomplished and you just have to go to another level,” added Spoelstra, whose team will try to do just that in game three on Sunday. – AFP