By Dr. Brandon Spradley |
The Los Angeles Lakers took a 1-0 series lead over the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals. The Lakers scored 65 points in the first half and cruised to an 18-point victory over the Heat. Anthony Davis shined in his first NBA Finals scoring 34 points and pulling down 9 rebounds.
Here are a few takeaways from Game 1
Championship Experience / Veteran Leadership
Having championship experience and veteran leadership matters in the playoffs, especially the NBA Finals. The Lakers, with LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, have just that. We all know what LeBron brings to the table in terms of his ability to lead a team to the finals, but for a moment, I would like to focus on Rajon Rondo. Rondo’s on-court leadership has been one of the primary reasons for the Laker’s success in the playoffs. He understands how to control key aspects of the game with his playmaking ability and overall pace to the game. Anthony Davis has probably benefitted the most from Rondo’s leadership (going back to their time with the New Orleans Pelicans). The Lakers were down early in the first quarter of game 1, but that quickly changed when Rondo was inserted into the lineup. He, along with LeBron James must continue to demonstrate their championship experience and leadership for the Lakers to win it all.
Matchups / Adjustments
Basketball is a game of matchups and adjustments. Throughout the playoffs, the Lakers have been able match up well against teams and make necessary adjustments. Going into the finals, we knew that the Lakers were far more talented than the Heat. With their personnel, the Lakers are able to play a variety of ways, whether it is small ball to dictate the pace of the game, or dominant the paint with their big man lineup. Dwight Howard proved to be valuable in the Western Conference Finals and in game 1 of the NBA Finals. He did not play very well in the first half but provided solid minutes in the opening minutes of the second half. I do not believe he should play significant minutes in this series, but all the Lakers need from him is 15 to 18 good minutes of rebounding, protecting the paint, and playing smart defense.
Three Point Shooting / Free Throws
Simply put, the Miami Heat will need to catch fire from the 3 point line if they want to win a game in this series. They have the capacity to do so with Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Unfortunately, Duncan Robinson played 27 minutes and went (0/3) from the field, with 0 points. As a team, the Heat went 11/35 from beyond the arc, and 11/14 from the free-throw line. Conversely, the Lakers were 15/38 from the three point line, and went to the free-throw line 27 times, making 25. The Heat will need to be more efficient from three and get to the free-throw line more often.
Health / Injuries
I do not believe injuries were a significant factor in the outcome of game 1, but it may be in the remainder of the series. Bam Adebayo, the All-Star Center for the Heat, left the game early with an apparent shoulder injury. In addition, Goran Dragic left the game with a foot injury, later diagnosed as a torn plantar fascia. Kendrick Nunn may be able to provide meaningful minutes to lessen the impact of losing Goran Dragic (if he is not able to play), but losing Bam Adebayo is another story. His injury was reported as a shoulder strain, but according to reports, Adebayo intends to play in game 2. The Heat will most certainly need him in their lineup if they want to compete with the Lakers.
These are just a few key takeaways from game 1 of the NBA Finals. The next game is Friday, October 2, 9 pm (ET) on ABC.
Dr. Brandon Spradley is the chair of sports management at the United States Sports Academy.