LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James finally got an easy Game 1 in the NBA Finals.
A very easy one, at that.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points in his finals debut, James had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and the Los Angeles Lakers rolled past the Miami Heat 116-98 on Wednesday night.
The Heat left beaten and battered.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 13 points, Danny Green had 11 and Alex Caruso finished with 10 for the Lakers. They returned to the finals for the first time in a decade and sent a very clear message. James’ teams had been 1-8 in Game 1 of past finals, with losses in each of the last seven openers.
Not this one.
“We kind of picked it up on both ends of the floor,” Davis said.
Jimmy Butler fought through a twisted left ankle to score 23 points for Miami. The Heat lost point guard Goran Dragic at halftime to a left foot injury and saw All-Star center Bam Adebayo leave in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a left shoulder problem.
Kendrick Nunn scored 18 points for the Heat, Tyler Herro had 14 and Jae Crowder 12. Adebayo was held to eight points in 21 minutes, and Miami went with subs for a fourth-quarter burst that turned a total rout into something only slightly more palatable in terms of final margin.
Game 2 is Friday night.
The Lakers did whatever they wanted. They outrebounded Miami 54-36, led by as many as 32 points, and made 15 3-pointers — a big number for a team that doesn’t necessarily count on piling up that many points from beyond the arc. They’re 21-3 this season when making at least 14 3s.
The only stretch that provided hope for Miami came in the first six minutes. The Heat scored on six consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead midway through the opening period.
So, the first six minutes were fine for Miami.
Everything else was all Lakers.
The simplest way to sum up what happened over the rest of the opening half is this: Lakers 55, Heat 25. The Lakers came into Game 1 ranked 21st out of the 22 teams that spent time in the bubble from 3-point range, making only 33.6% of their tries from deep at Disney. They were the only team in the postseason to have two games shooting less than 25% on 3s.
Perhaps they were due. The Lakers went 9-for-11 on 3’s in the final 16 minutes of the first half. Of the nine Lakers who played in the first two quarters, eight tried a 3-pointer — and all eight made at least one.
They closed the first quarter on a 19-3 run. Herro banked in a 3 from a sharp angle for a 43-41 Miami lead with 7:33 left in the half, and then the Lakers took off again, this time on a 24-5 burst to go into the break with a 65-48 lead.
And if things weren’t already bad enough for Miami, the Heat determined at the half that Dragic — playing in his first finals game — couldn’t keep going in Game 1 because of a left foot injury.
The Lakers started the third on another run, this one 18-3, and the rout was officially underway.
Heat: Butler turned his left ankle in the final seconds of the first half, remained in the game and started the second half. ... It was the 19th time that Miami lost a game this season after leading by double digits at some point.
Lakers: The Lakers improved to 17-15 in Game 1s of title series. ... Davis was 10 for 10 from the foul line, plus added nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
The NBA Finals record book is basically a James scrapbook of career achievements, and he raised his spot on some of those lists Wednesday. He became the seventh player to appear in 50 NBA Finals games (he could climb all the way to a tie for third on that list if this series goes seven games) and passed Michael Jordan and George Mikan for fifth in finals free throws made.
The Heat fell to 1-5 in Game 1 of title series. All three of Miami’s championships have come after dropping the opener.