Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat finally tipped off at the bubble on Wednesday night.
This matchup marks the first time both teams have met in the NBA Finals. The Lakers dominated Game 1, as they resoundingly defeated the Heat 116-98. Miami quickly built a 13-point lead in the first quarter. However, the Lakers hit threes at over a 50% clip throughout the first half. Once Los Angeles dismantled the 2-3 zone defense during the second quarter, Miami struggled to respond.
Here are the winners and losers from the Lakers’ dominate Game 1 victory over the Heat in the NBA Finals.
Winner: Anthony Davis
Before this series, Davis was expected to make a difference against the Heat. Not because he already solidified himself as a near-perfect complement to LeBron James. But to exploit Miami’s lack of size in their playoff rotation.
Davis continued an outstanding postseason in Game 1 with exceptional play from nearly everywhere on the floor. He finished with 34 points, six rebounds and five assists, tallying a game-high plus-minus of +23. Only Shaquille O’Neal (43) and George Mikan (42) scored more points in their first Finals game in a Laker uniform.
Loser: Bam Adebayo
Adebayo entered the Finals prepared to tackle the daunting task of protecting the rim against one of the best inside scoring teams in the Lakers. He played better than most of his teammates in the first half, providing some stability to how the Heat played on both sides of the ball.
Unfortunately, things got even worse for Miami and its franchise center. After the Heat were outscored 15-6 to start the second half, Adebayo suffered a shoulder strain with 6:04 left in the third quarter. The Lakers held their highest lead of the game at that moment. And his exit was the nail in the coffin for Game 1.
Winner: LeBron James
James’ performance wasn’t one of those classic LeBronian showcases where he takes over games by dramatically knocking down shot after shot when it matters most. Year 17 LeBron finished one assist short of a triple-double in a relatively average game by his standards: He earned 25 points and nine assists in the win.
The unofficial G.O.A.T. candidate patiently surveyed the floor from one possession to the next. LeBron surgically picked apart mismatches and targeted incapable defenders like Duncan Robinson. He found deep shooters with open looks that helped the Lakers shoot 39.5% from three. As expected, he made it look way too easy.
Loser: Andre Iguodala
Every Finals in the last decade has featured LeBron or Iguodala. The Heat acquired him midseason, in the event they clashed with LeBron or other elite scoring threats in the playoffs. As a result, he is making his sixth-straight Finals appearance.
When he tried filling defensive voids in the frontcourt, the Lakers overwhelmed him. Iguodala posted a 114.3 defensive rating — which is nowhere near as atrocious as Jae Crowder’s 142.9. The difference is that Iguodala becomes a liability to Miami if he does not defend well, since he averages just 4.2 points per game in the playoffs. He scored seven and it led to a -25 plus-minus rating on Wednesday night.
Winner: Danny Green
Danny Green was given extra space on the perimeter to spot-up because Miami deployed zone defense to protect the rim. The Heat treated him and most outside shooters on the Lakers like an afterthought.
So, Green responded by adding to an impressive resume filled with great shooting performances in the Finals. The three-and-D specialist and two-time champion made more shots beyond the arc (3) than any other Laker in Game 1, converting 37.5% of his attempts from deep. Plus, he tallied three blocks and two steals in 29 minutes of action.
Loser: Tyler Herro
Herro has taken giant steps during his rookie campaign. He earned a reputation as a clutch player, who loves rising up in big moments. We’ve also seen his defense improve. But Herro was arguably Miami’s worst player in Game 1, tallying a plus-minus of -35.
Herro’s rotations in the 2-3 zone looked as slow as they did last November, when he was first adjusting to the NBA. He seemed less focused on winning defensive matchups than he did against the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. LeBron and Davis would target him on mismatches, contributing to his abysmal 135.9 defensive rating for the night.
Winner: Alex Caruso
Alex Caruso gets enough social media hype from fanboys. However, he deserves an honorable mention for his Game 1 performance.
Caruso was active off the ball as a cutter against the Heat. His strong partnership with LeBron boded well as he slipped to the basket and scored 10 points in 21 minutes. Caruso was also more impressive on the other end, where he slowed down Miami’s backcourt with relative ease by taking drives away. As a result, the backup tallied a 95.7 defensive rating.
Loser: Goran Dragic
Against the Lakers, Dragic needed to either find traction running the pick-and-roll with Bam Adebayo or he was going to need to hit a lot of threes.
After suffering a plantar tear in his left foot, Dragic did not return to the game. He had six points and three assists in 14 minutes. Miami’s offense was the most in sync when he was on the floor. Now he may not return in this series.
Winner: Rajon Rondo
Some players just can’t be measured by stats. Often, this has to do with how they achieve whatever production is metricated as opposed to what.
Rajon Rondo perfectly fits this bill in Game 1 with seven points and four assists. He only hit threes at a 20% clip. Still, his impact on the floor was noticeable from the moment he entered the game. The Lakers started moving the ball much better after LeBron’s first few minutes in the game were slow. Different scoring chances started opening up for teammates.
Loser: Jae Crowder
Jae Crowder is not usually an example of a player who puts up empty stats — he plays tough defense on the best players in the game and thrives as a spot-up shooter.
Against the Lakers, his 12 points and two blocks look great on paper. But his most productive minutes were in the first quarter, and he couldn’t shoot as consistently since his offensive style is built around Butler, Dragic, and Adebayo feeding shooters.