Los Angeles Lakers: Takeaways from Game 1

Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Here are a few key takeaways from the Game 1 win for the Los Angeles Lakers over the Miami Heat.

The Los Angeles Lakers took Game 1 in dominant fashion, beating the Heat 116-98. After being down 13 points in the middle of the first quarter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drilled a pair of threes, sparking a Lakers’ 19-3 scoring run to end the quarter.

In the second and third quarters, the Lakers continued scoring at will to generate a 75-30 run, one of the most dominant scoring stretches in NBA Finals history. The Lakers led by 32 points at their apex but seemed to take their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter, allowing the Heat to battle back to an 18 point deficit.

Lakers Answer to Heat Defensive Schemes

The Lakers seemed to have answers to everything the Heat threw at them defensively. Miami Coach Eric Spoelstra had his team start the game playing switch man defense, meaning they were playing man to man defense and switching on all screens. To combat this defense, Coach Frank Vogel had Lebron James recieve high ball screens to capitalize on the Heat’s switches. After the ball screen, instead of having Jimmy Butler guarding Lebron, the Heat had a less capable defender like Duncan Robinson or Goran Dragic trying to stop Lebron. Vogel’s offensive adjustment gave Lebron the opportunity to drive to the rim or kick the ball to open shooters.

After the Lakers dominated the Heat’s man to man defense, Miami switched to zone to keep everything out of the paint. Vogel quickly reacted, changing to his small lineup by subbing Dwight Howard out of the game for Markieff Morris. This stretched out the Heat’s zone, opening driving lanes for Lebron and giving their shooters space in the zone to make shots. Lakers shooters capitalized on open shots, shooting 64.7% from three point range in the first half. This allowed the Lakers to rally back from being down 13 points and ultimately build their lead to over 30.

Anthony Davis Dominated On Both Sides of the Ball

Anthony Davis’ NBA Finals debut did not disappoint. Racking up 34 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks, Davis dominated Game 1 on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Davis’ 34 points was the 3rd most points in a Finals debut in NBA history. He shot 11/21 from the field and 2/4 from three. On defense, AD tallied 3 blocks and pulled down 6 defensive rebounds. Stats do not tell the whole story of Davis’ presence on the defensive end. AD’s presence in the paint forces opposing players to alter their shot’s trajectory in order to get a shot off without it being blocked. In many cases, opposing players will overshoot the basket trying to get their shot over Anthony Davis. The Lakers will look for Davis to continue his aggressiveness on both ends on the floor for the rest of the series.

Lakers Defense Continues to Dominate

The Lakers played another great game on the defensive end. The Heat run a complex offense that capitalizes on any defensive breakdowns. At the beginning of the game, the Lakers made a few mistakes, and the Heat made them pay for it by going on a 13-0 run. The Lakers quickly reeled it in and started playing excellent defense. The team held Duncan Robinson to zero points, and Tyler Herro to only 14 points on 18 inefficient shots. Additionally, they generated 8 turnovers, 7 of which were live ball turnovers that allowed the team to get out on the fastbreak.

Anthony Davis and Danny Green each added 3 blocks, while KCP and Dudley each tallied one of their own. The Lakers defense continues to fuel their offense, and the team will need to continue their defensive dominance to close out the final series.

The Lakers will play Game 2 on Friday night at 6pm PT on ABC.