The Miami Heat punched the Los Angeles Lakers in the mouth.
The Lakers hit back harder, and key players for the Heat will need time to recover.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points in his NBA Finals debut, LeBron James had 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists kicking off the start to his 10th Finals appearance and the Lakers dominated the Heat 116-98 on Wednesday night.
I mentioned the Heat punched first. They entered the series heavy underdogs.
The Heat scored on six consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead halfway through the opening period.
Lakers hit back with several scoring runs to close the first half and open the second half.
Lakers closed the first quarter on a 19-3 run.
Miami nursed a two-point lead with 7:33 left in the first half, and then the Lakers went on a 24-5 run to go into halftime with a 65-48 lead.
Fresh out their locker room, the Lakers went on another run, this one 18-3.
If you can read lips, Davis was shouting, “it’s over,” after a dunk with less than eight minutes to play in the third quarter to give the Lakers a 26-point lead.
“Play in the paint and dominate the paint area, that was my mindset coming into the game,” Lakers power forward Davis said.
The Lakers outrebounded Miami 54-36.
“Obviously you want to play well, you want to come out and win,” Davis added. “I will always put pressure on myself.”
Lakers’ largest lead was 32 points and connected on 15 3-pointers. This is the best game they have played in the bubble so far, shooting from beyond the arc.
Down one game, the Heat has serious concerns with injuries as they prepare for game two.
“They just took control,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t able to get it back.”
Point guard Goran Dragic left in the second quarter; he was diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot; I doubt he would return in the series. And All-Star center Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter with a left shoulder strain. Dragic left the game with 16 points, Adebayo, with eight.
“We can watch all the film in the world, we understand, we know what we did not do,” Heat guard Jimmy Butler said. “We did not rebound; we didn’t make them miss any shots; we did not get back; all of those things led to the deficit we put ourselves in.”
Butler played through a sprained left ankle to score 23 points for Miami. Kendrick Nunn filled in for Dragic and scored 18 points for the Heat, Tyler Herro had a quit 14, and Jae Crowder finished with 12.
The Heat are now 1-5 in Game 1 of a Finals series. All three of Miami’s championships have come after dropping the opener.
Davis was impressive in his Finals debut. Along with his 30 plus points, he was 10 for 10 from the foul line, added nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Miami, after game one, does not seem to have a game plan in stopping Davis. Especially pending the status of Adebayo’s return who can help in comprising him.
“He has been preparing for this moment all season,” James said. “I am happy to be on the same floor with him and the same uniform. He was a force offensively and defensively.”
The Heat won their last championship in 2013, when James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh led them to the second of back-to-back titles by beating the San Antonio Spurs.
James, who missed the playoffs last season because of a groin injury in his first year with the Lakers, scored 16 points in the fourth quarter.
James became the seventh player to appear in 50 NBA Finals games and passed Michael Jordan and George Mikan for fifth in finals free throws made.
The beat goes on. Game two is Friday night.