AD’s Big Finals Debut Helps LeBron Win His Second Game 1 in 10 Finals Appearances

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  • The Los Angeles Lakers won Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals 116-98.
  • Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 34 points and 9 rebounds.
  • The Lakers shot 15-38 from behind the three-point area.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals has always been a struggle for LeBron James.

In his previous nine appearances in the NBA Finals, James has a Game 1 record of 1-8. His only Game 1 win came in 2013 when his Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 103-84 on June 9, 2013. On Wednesday, King James picked up his second Game 1 win as the Lakers rolled past the Miami Heat 116-98:

Heat’s First Six Minutes

The Lakers headed to the Finals as sizeable betting favorites to win the championship at -325. They also entered Game 1 as -5.5 point favorites to beat the Heat. But Jimmy Butler refused to call his team as the underdog in the series. According to Butler, they may say that they have a chip on their shoulder but they aren’t underdogs. And for the first six minutes of Game 1, Butler appeared to be correct.

Jae Crowder and Butler opened the Heat’s scoring with back to back triples. Butler would score 9 of Miami’s first nine points while Crowder’s second triple would give them a 23-10 lead at the 5:38 mark. But that was as far as the fight that the Heat would bring as the Lakers would dominate the rest of the half 55-25 and the rest of the game as well.

After taking the first quarter 31-28, Los Angeles outscored Miami 34-20 in the second period to take a 17-point lead at the break. With that, the Lakers became the first team in the NBA play-by-play era (1996-97) to lead by double figures at the half after trailing by 10 or more points. The Heat made a big fourth quarter run but by that time, everything but the final score had been settled.

AD’s Big Finals Debut

Anthony Davis came to Game 1 with a lot of pressure on his broad shoulders. Game 1 was Davis’ first ever Finals game and as the Lakers’ scoring and rebounding leader for the entire season, he had to deliver- LeBron James notwithstanding. And deliver he did.

Davis shot 11-21 from the field, 2-4 from deep, and 10-10 from the foul line as he scored 34 points to lead all scorers in Game 1. Davis’ 34 points is the 3rd-highest scoring output by a Lakers player in his Finals debut. Only Shaquille O’Neal (43 points ) in 2000 and George Mikan (42 points ) in 1949 have scored more in their Finals debut for the Purple and Gold.

AD also grabbed nine rebounds, issued five assists and blocked three shots in 38 minutes of playing time. Davis also registered the highest plus/minus of any player from both teams in Game 1 with his +23. Danny Green ( +21) was the only other player in Game 1 to have a plus/minus of at least +20.

Lakers Three-Point Shooting

Outside AD, the Lakers three-point shooting was the key in Game 1. Los Angeles entered Wednesday ranked 21st among the 22 teams who played in the Orlando bubble when it came to three point shooting. The Lakers made only 33.6% of their three-point attempts at Disney World. But in Game 1, their guns came out blazing.

Los Angeles shot just as shade under 40% from behind the three-point arc, making 15 of 38 three ball attempts in Game 1. During the final 16 minutes of the first half, the Lakers went 9-11 from behind the three-point area. Of the nine Lakers who played in the first half, eight of them attempted a three-pointer. Each of the eight made at least one three-point basket.

On the other hand, Miami’s version of the splash brothers combined to shoot just 2-11 from deep. Goran Dragic made at least two three-pointers in 11 of Miami’s first 15 playoff games this season. He took just one three-point basket in Game 1 before tearing the plantar fascia of his left foot in the second quarter. Overall, the Heat went 11-35 from deep or 31.4%.

Just One Game

Game 2 is on Friday and the Lakers are -7.5 favorites to take a 2-0 lead at BetOnline. Los Angeles has also surged to a -800 odds on favorite to win the NBA title at Bet365. But despite the Lakers’ dominance on the court and in the oddsboards, we’re only one game done in a long seven-game series.

Losing Game 1 isn’t something new for Miami anyway. The Heat have a record of 1-5 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. And yes, don’t forget that all three of Miami’s championships have come after dropping the Finals series opener

The Heat though, need to stay healthy if the want to equalize the series or topple the Lakers. Dragic isn’t expected to return to the Finals. Butler turned his ankle in the closing seconds of the first half but stayed in the game while All-Star center Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a shoulder strain. Adebayo’s X-rays were negative so that’s a positive for the Heat.

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Shane Acedera / Author

Shane grew up watching the Magic & Bird rivalry but ended up rooting for Detroit's Bad Boys team in the 1990s NBA. He loves to tell sports stories and has been writing about sports since high school. When Shane isn't busy jotting down his thoughts, he's just chillin' at home with his wife Rocelle and their two dogs named Horry and Fisher.