Lakers

Energy, Communication Among Keys to Lakers Going Up 2-0 on Heat

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Experience and talent carried the Lakers to a dominant Game 1 win Wednesday night. That and some scorching perimeter shooting in the first half.

LAL quieted Miami 116-98 to take a 1-0 lead in the 2020 NBA Finals, powered by Anthony Davis’ 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists. But now, the Heat might be without two of their best players for Game 2 and possibly further.

Goran Dragic is doubtful and Bam Adebayo has been recently ruled out for Friday night’s contest. Dragic, a 34-year-old veteran guard, has a plantar fascia tear in his left foot. Adebayo, an All-Defensive Second-Team star, has a neck strain.

 

Both players have been instrumental to the Heat’s success this season. Rookie Tyler Herro had this to say when asked about Dragic possibly being out:

“You know, it’s definitely going to hurt me because he takes some of the handling priorities off of me, and he makes a lot of plays for us and makes plays for myself.”

Here’s what Herro said on Adebayo potentially missing time:

“I think almost everything changes because of how much Bam does for us offensively and defensively.”

If Dragic is out for Game 2, it’s safe to assume Herro will move into the starting lineup as he did in the second half of Game 1. Fellow rookie guard Kendrick Nunn will likely see more time as well. He played 20 of 24 minutes in the second half, finishing with 18 points and five rebounds.

What does all this mean for the Lakers?

The injuries to the Heat stars have them as nearly 10-point favorites in Game 2, according to Sports Betting Dime— up 2.5 points from Wednesday’s contest.

Now, Frank Vogel’s game plan for Friday night becomes slightly more difficult because of Miami’s injury concerns.

“Well, we first plan on those guys playing,” Vogel said. “Injury report can change overnight, and we have to be prepared for those guys to be in until game time, until they’re ruled out. Secondly, they’ve got a deep team. We know they have an army of guys that play a great style of play that’s very, very difficult to guard, that work extremely hard on the defensive end, and we’ve got to prepare for whoever is in uniform.”

So, Vogel and the Lakers will prepare as if everyone will play. But there are things his team can self-correct to have a better all-around performance in Game 2, regardless of who’s on the court for Miami.

Energy and Focus

The Heat jumped out to a 23-10 lead halfway through the first quarter in Game 1. Four Lakers turnovers and some defensive breakdowns were part of the reason why they fell behind so quickly.

On this play in particular, Adebayo comes over to set a pick. LeBron James anticipates the pick, so Jimmy Butler drives baseline and Dwight Howard comes over to help. At this point, James should be sliding down as Adebayo rolls to the basket, but he doesn’t, and Butler finds him for a layup.

https://twitter.com/MiamiHEAT/status/1311477212156178434

But James, playing in his 10th NBA Finals, recorded 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in the victory. An on-brand performance for The King, but he wasn’t happy with how the game started and was asked about his takeaways after watching film.

“They’re going to make adjustments in Game 2, and we need to be ready for that. We can’t come out with the energy that we had in Game 1 and go down 23-10 and expect the same result as we had in Game 1. So we look forward to that challenge.”

LA made it a game and eventually ran away with it. But even with a late, comfortable lead with less than four minutes remaining, James was frustrated with his team’s effort, per Yahoo! Sports’ Chris B. Haynes. The three-time champion scolded veteran guards Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after a defensive miscommunication led to an easy Heat basket. LA was up 19 at that point.

That’s how locked in James and this Lakers group is. They know they can be better and have to be better against this resilient Miami team that is known to play hard until the final buzzer sounds.

Defense

The Lakers had a handful of defensive breakdowns early in the game and throughout the fourth quarter. You saw how James was late to rotate onto Adebayo and how Rondo and KCP didn’t communicate on the switch.

Well, that’s one thing LA has to work on in Game 2. The Heat move the ball as well as any team in the league and do a good job of finding their shooters. And though they struggled Wednesday going just 11 of 35 from beyond the arc, guys like Herro and sharpshooter Duncan Robinson won’t always combine to go 2 of 11. They missed some wide-open shots that they normally don’t.

Crowder was the lone bright spot from deep for Miami, as he made four triples, three of which came in the opening frame. Butler made a couple triples as well.

The Lakers will have to do a better job rotating onto Heat shooters, and just as important, closing out and staying down on pump-fakes. Easier said than done, however.

After Game 1, James was asked if, in the midst of the game, he was already thinking about what the Lakers could improve on moving forward.

“I can’t wait for tomorrow (Thursday) for us to get back together and watch the film and see ways we can be better and see some of the breakdowns that we had,” James said. “Especially in that fourth quarter, especially in that first six minutes of the first quarter where we can be so much better defensively and also so much better offensively.”

Offense

The Lakers led by 32 at one point in the third quarter of Game 1. They shot 45 percent from the field, 40 percent from three (15 of 38) and 93 percent from the line (25 of 27).

Five players scored in double figures and five players knocked down at least two threes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Ball security will likely be a point of emphasis for Vogel ahead of Friday night’s game. His team committed 12 turnovers which led to 16 Miami points. The Heat had just eight turnovers which led to 14 Lakers points.

LA was also limited to just 10 fast break points, below its season average of 18 per game. The Lakers only managed 38 points in the paint, too– far off their nightly 52 points they’re used to scoring. But the aggressiveness around the basket was there even though the numbers don’t reflect that.

Davis will look to follow up his impressive Finals debut against the shorthanded Heat, but there’s a good chance Erik Spoelstra will throw some double teams at him and force others to make plays and shots.

It’s fair to expect a much closer and competitive Game 2. As I previously mentioned, this Heat team is resilient and will fight for a full 48 minutes. This game is the Lakers’ to lose, however, and that’s likely not going to happen.

(All stats via ESPN, Team Rankings, Basketball-Reference)

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About Sandeep Chandok

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