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Basketball

NBA Finals Game 1

Whew. What a beatdown. I mean, that was brutal. Miami were down by more than 30 points at one stage! For the first time in the playoffs, Miami looked like they didn’t belong here. It’s a series for a reason though and this one isn’t over just yet.

Early on in the game, Miami had a double digit lead and looked awesome. I was honestly getting ready to give game 1 to the Heat. They were looking dominant. The 3 ball was dropping and their defense was on top of their game. The Lakers could not stop turning the ball over and Vogel had to burn 3 timeouts in the first quarter. Then, all of a sudden, the game changed. Los Angeles actually had the lead by the end of the first quarter and dominated the rest of the game. So what happened?

Well, for starters, Los Angeles found their outside shot and in a big way. They eventually lost it again, but the game was already over at that stage. Prior to the end of the first half, the Lakers had made 13 triples out of their 19 attempts. Miami wasn’t terrible at shooting it early on in this game, but nobody can keep up with that level of efficiency.

Secondly, the bench unit for the Lakers played fantastic. They actually took the lead whilst James was on the bench getting some rest. That’s not a knock on LeBron, he was fantastic. But it does speak volumes to how well the bench for Los Angeles performed.

Finally, the Lakers were getting every individual match up they wanted on offense. They utilised the switch over and over to get the match up that they wanted. The ball was constantly moving and finding the right players at the right time. Ball movement and match ups go a long way.

On top of all of that, the Lakers played some intense defense. Nothing easy came for the Heat. Nothing at all. Every shot was contested, the paint was well guarded and they were getting killed on the glass. The Lakers held Miami to just 98 points for the night.

Individually, it’s hard to pick who was the MVP for Los Angeles. I’d probably say Davis, but only just. Both of LA’s two superstars were amazing! Davis had 34 points (52% shooting), 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. James had 25 points (53% shooting), 13 rebounds, 9 assists and 1 steal. Each of them had 2 triples each, both at 50% accuracy. Wow.

Obviously, those two lead the way, but credit can go to a few other players as well. Howard grabbed 8 rebounds in 15 minutes. Caruso shot 67% for 10 points and 4 boards. Danny Green hit 3 triples on his way to 11 points. KCP had 13 points, even though he only made 3 of his 10 attempts, he was perfect at the free throw line. Morris shot 67% from outside and 50% overall for his 8 points.

Kuzma had 8 rebounds, but was disappointing on offense, scoring just 3 points on 7 shot attempts. Rondo attempted way too many stepback threes (any more than 0 is way too many) and finished 1 of 5 from long range. I don’t mind Rondo taking open threes, but the step backs are pretty silly. Don’t force it.

For Miami, there isn’t much to say except that they choked. It happens sometimes, what’s important is how they answer. It wasn’t all bad for them and they do have some positives to take away.

We will start on Jimmy Butler, because he was pretty good offensively. He scored 23 points on 62% shooting and even knocked down a couple of threes. Jimmy also had 5 assists and 2 steals. However, I would like to see a more aggressive effort on defense. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t look like one of the elite defenders in this league. I believe Jimmy is that good and I expect him to bounce back and play like it. Hopefully that ankle is 100%, because Miami are going to have to lean on him hard.

In other positive news, Crowder finally found the bottom of the basket and made 3 out of his first 4 attempts from outside. If that continues, Miami just got a huge weapon back. Crowder finished with 12 points, all from long range. He connected on 57% of his threes.

Unfortunately, they played the entire second half without Dragic and most of the second half without Bam. That’s a pretty big loss, especially when you are trying to come back from a double digit deficit at half time.

Let’s talk about Bam and Dragic though, because they are going to be a huge key moving forward. Admittedly, neither of them have an attractive looking box score from this game. Bam had 8 points and 4 rebounds. Dragic had 6 points and 3 assists. Both of them had a terrible shooting percentage, but it’s not all bad. When the two of them played in the pick and roll, it looked like Los Angeles had no answer for it. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it’s something promising to look at for Miami. Honestly, I’m surprised Miami didn’t just run that play over and over. That’s how good it looked.

I imagine Kendrick Nunn might get the start in game 2, if Dragic is injured. Nunn’s performance was a huge silver lining for Miami. In less than 20 minutes, Nunn scored 18 points on 73% shooting, to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. I expect more minutes for Nunn next game, whether as a starter or off the bench.

Iguodala gave the Heat some good minutes and played like you would expect. He had 7 points, 5 rebounds and 8 and 6 assists, pretty solid numbers off the bench. Everyone else wasn’t great. The good news is, that leaves a lot of room for improvement in game 2. Robinson didn’t score. Herro was streaky. Olynk had an ugly game. Derrick Jones Jr was unnoticeable in his minutes. That’s a lot of guys underperforming for Miami.

The final score was 116-98. Basically, everything went right for L.A. and everything went wrong for Miami. I’m curious to see how Miami bounce back from this.

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