Game 1 of NBA Finals an unmitigated disaster for Heat in loss to Lakers

Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers
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Ricky Dimon

NBA

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

If you thought losing was the worst thing that could happen to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, well… think again.

The Heat did not just lose to the Los Angeles Lakers. They did not just lose by 18 points. They did not just lose far more convincingly than the final 18-point margin would suggest. The Heat also saw Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo leave with injuries.

Heck, even Jimmy Butler turned his ankle early in the second half. He at least managed to stay in the game. Dragic (foot) and Adebayo (shoulder) did not return following their respective exits as Miami fell to Los Angeles 116-98. It is, of course, too early to know what the statuses of those two players are for the remainder of this series.

But after what transpired in Game 1, will it even matter?

Dominance–but not quite right from the start

It was the Heat who actually led 23-10 midway through the first quarter. But to say that lead didn’t last long would be a gross understatement. By the time the opening 12 minutes had even reached a conclusion, the Lakers were already in front 31-28. That’s right; they ended the quarter on a 21-5 run (to miraculously cover our Lakers -1.5 first-quarter prop bet, it should be noted!).

Things only got worse from there for Miami. By the time Dragic left with five minutes to go in the second quarter, LeBron James and company had already extended their advantage to double-digits. They were ahead by 32 points (a ridiculous 87-55 margin) when Adebayo was sidelined with six minutes remaining in the third.

It did not matter who was on the floor for the Heat. When their top guys were in, they got manhandled. When two of their top guys were out, they also got manhandled.

What can the Heat do?

The Portland Trail Blazers had no answer for LeBron or Anthony Davis in the first round. Same for the Houston Rockets. The Denver Nuggets also failed to contain those two superstars in the Western Conference Finals. Although Miami looked strong defensively throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, it feels like the story will be the same. No matter what they Heat threw at them, the Lakers had their way on the offensive end of the floor. When Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra called for man-to-man defense, L.A. went right at Tyler Herro to the extent that he was minus-26 before the first half even ended and a nightmarish minus-35 for the game. When the Heat went with zone, the Lakers’ impeccable ball movement led to open three after open three. Five different Lakers drained multiple triples (LeBron, A.D., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, and Markieff Morris). They finished 15-for-39 from downtown as a team.

L.A.’s mixture of outside shooting and aggression, depending on Miami’s defense, could not have worked better. The Lakers attempted 27 free-throws–almost twice as many as the opposition (14). LeBron and Davis combined to go 15-for-16 from the charity stripe.

When it was mercifully all over for the underdogs, LeBron was one assist shy of a triple-double. Beginning his 10th NBA Finals and seeking his fourth championship, the 35-year-old delivered 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. Davis contributed 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and three blocks.

Is it over?

Generally speaking, overreacting to the first game in a best-of-seven series is not what you want to do.

But that wasn’t just your normal Game 1. It wasn’t just a normal loss for the Heat. It was an unmitigated disaster. Even at full strength, they clearly are overmatched. And they may not even be at full strength for Game 2 on Friday–and perhaps beyond.

Heading into the series, there were realistic questions regarding Miami’s chances of pulling off the upset and capturing a most improbable NBA title. We said Lakers in 5, but nobody said it would be a slam dunk; not with how good the Heat looked against their East rivals. But “can the Heat win the series” is no longer the question. Now the question is if they can even win a single game?

Barring either an immediate cure for their injuries or an outright miracle, the answer is no.

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