The 2019-2020 NBA season is one step closer to its conclusion. Contrary to other NBA seasons in the past, this season has experienced a multitude of hurdles and challenges for NBA players, staff, and fans to endure. From the controversy of preseason in China to Kobe Bryant’s death and to what brought the NBA finals to a bubble in Orlando, the Coronavirus pandemic, this has been a season unlike any other. The NBA bubble has worked above a lot of people’s expectations, and now there are two NBA teams left to duke it out for the 2020 NBA championship. The Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis will square off against a team some may deem as an underdog. The Miami Heat will be the representatives from the Eastern Conference who have a collection of quality players across multiple positions that is rivaled by very few teams in the NBA. Led by Jimmy Butler, who plays his first season in South Beach, the gritty and well-orchestrated Heat will try to win their franchise 4th NBA title against the Los Angeles Lakers who seek a NBA record-tying 17th NBA championship (the Boston Celtics also have 17 NBA championships). So many more storylines live in this series, including the battle between LeBron James and the team he used to play for where he won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. To keep it as simple as possible, the sports world should brace itself for some of the best NBA basketball we’ve seen in quite some time.
The first bucket of the NBA finals went to the Miami Heat with just over a minute played when Jae Crowder spotted up for a three pointer in the corner to strike first blood. With four minutes played, the score was 12-10 in favor of the Heat after Miami had guys like Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler producing offense early. The game’s first timeout was taken with just under seven minutes to play in the quarter after the Heat took a quick 6 point lead on the Lakers thanks to a few turnovers from Los Angeles. Soon after the game resumed, Frank Vogel had to take another timeout because of the Heat going on an 11-0 unanswered run to push the lead to 23-10 with five and a half minutes remaining in the quarter. The Lakers did seem to use the timeout wisely as they went on their own 8-2 spurt thanks to consecutive three pointers from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to get the Heat lead down to 25-18. The Heat led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, but at the end of the first 12 minutes, the Lakers used a 19-3 run to take a 31-28 lead over Miami.
Tyler Herro, Miami’s budding rookie, got his shooting touch in the second quarter when he made two three-pointers to put the Heat up 43-41 with 7:30 to go in the half. LeBron had himself a slow start on the scoring end with 5 points, but he was playing more like a facilitator to get his teammates going. As a result, The King had five early assists and had a grasp on the tempo of the Lakers offense. Even with LeBron on the bench, the Lakers supporting cast rose to the occasion to help the team shoot 11-17 from downtown and give the Lakers a 16-2 run to establish a double-digit lead. The Lakers 11 three pointers tied a franchise record for the most three pointers made in any half of a playoff game and that record helped the Lakers establish a dominant 65-48 lead at halftime. Jimmy Butler seemed to pick up a sprained ankle at the end of the half, so it would remain to be seen if Jimmy’s game would be hindered for the second half of Game 1.
The Lakers played the beginning of the second half without letting off of the acceleration as four early points for both LeBron James and Anthony Davis helped the Lakers push their lead to 22 with 9 minutes remaining in the third quarter. To make matters worse for the Miami Heat, it was determined that Goran Dragic would be listed doubtful to return for the game with a foot injury. Eric Spoelstra was forced into another timeout as the Lakers were getting everything to go their way offensively as a result of their congestive defense as they ballooned to a 80-54 advantage with just under eight minutes to go in the third. At this point in the game, the Los Angeles bench unit was far more productive than the Heat’s bench as they were outscored 20-10 as Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso had 7 points each. Bam Adebayo was added to the injury list for the Miami Heat as the deficit grew to as much as 32 points in the third quarter. The game seemed to wrap up midway through the third quarter as confidence oozed from the Lakers game and desperation was clear from the Heat. With the game seemingly out of reach, the third quarter ended with a 93-67 scoreline favoring the Lakers.
With ten minutes to go in the game, the Miami Heat were able to cut the lead to 20 after Andre Iguodala stuck in a three pointer from the left corner. This forced Frank Vogel to take a timeout as he didn’t want his team giving this Miami Heat team any glimpse of hope. LeBron and AD played out the fourth quarter to assure the Miami Heat wouldn’t make a run back. The Heat were able to cut the lead to 109-96 after Tyler Herro made a driving layup, but the Lakers were able to see out the remainder of the game to take Game 1 with a 116-98 scoreline. LeBron James finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists while Anthony Davis had himself 34 points and 9 rebounds to lead Los Angeles in Game 1. Game 2 of the NBA finals will take place on Friday, October 2nd at 6pm.