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10 Observations From The Heat’s Disasterous Game 1 Loss To The Lakers

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Game 1 of the NBA Finals are in the books, as the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the Miami Heat 116-98, an impressive start to the best-of-seven-series.

Here are 10 observations on Game 1 from 305Sports writers Michael Yero and Kyle Murphy.

1. If L.A. shoots like that, there’s simply nothing Miami can do.

Coach Erik Spoelstra’s game plan entering the Finals was to get the ball away from Anthony Davis and LeBron James when possible. Every time one of them dribbled around the rim, a double-team would come their way. The scheme was in hopes to get L.A. to depend on players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green to be their reliable shooters, both less reliable of making plays than that of James or Davis.

Surprisingly, that was not the case for the Lakers, who saw efficiency from everybody on the court, especially from three-point range.

The Lakers tied a franchise-high with the most three-pointers in a half (11) and converted on 13 of their first 19 attempts from deep (68.4 percent) until they cooled off and missed 17 of their 19 attempts behind the arc. Regardless, the damage was insurmountable at that point.

While their are obvious adjustments needed, there’s simply no controlling the rhythm this Lakers squad was at in Game 1. Miami simply isn’t built to repeatedly answer back with their own score. Instead, they’re better known for consecutive defensive stops that help fuel successful offensive possessions.

— Michael Yero and Kyle Murphy.

2. AD’s usage definitely a worry, but one Miami can adjust to.

Anthony Davis took control of Game 1 from the jump, finishing with 34 points on 11 of 21 shooting, adding a perfect 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. Davis led both teams in usage rate (30.7 percent), ahead of Miami’s Tyler Herro, who was at 29.9 percent.

Davis added two shots from beyond the arc, but took over at the rim, where he scored 16 points. He shot 7 of 9 inside the restricted area and 1 of 5 inside the paint but outside of the restricted area, per NBA Stats. Adding that along with his 12 second chance points, 9 points off turnovers and 6 fast break points, and there’s an issue needed to be solved.

That starts with getting rebounds, which one of Miami’s biggest difficulties. L.A. outrebounded Miami 54-36 in Game 1, in which Davis added 9 and LeBron James 13.

While it was difficult primarily due to Los Angeles’ size advantage, there were ways that the Heat picked up majority of the rebounds. Miami outrebounded L.A. 21-10 when they doubled the Lakers on box outs, per NBA Stats.

Morale of the story: grabbing rebounds will be key for Miami to limit. Davis from another impressive night. Add that along with the fact that the Heat double-team him every time he dribbles around the paint, and it forces others to score the ball for him.

While it’s easier said than done, it’s really the only chance Miami has at limiting one of the best players the league has today.

— Michael Yero.

3. Butler aggressive and efficient early. 

Jimmy Butler’s early play was something that everybody has been looking for in this postseason. Butler hit 7 of his first 10 shots and scored 16 points in the first half. He was also using his aggression early on to set up teammates dishing out 4 assists before the half.

Per NBA Stats, Butler accounted for 33.3 percent of Miami’s points while on the court, but attempted just 22 percent of their field goals in that time. The five-time All-Star led the Heat in scoring with 23 points.

In the end, it was just the Lakers’ night.  

— Kyle Murphy.

4. Kendrick Nunn’s time to shine.

Down 26 with 7:50 left in the third quarter, coach Spoelstra chose to go with his All-Rookie first-team guard Kendrick Nunn, who has dealt with a slump since arriving to the NBA’s bubble.

Entering Game 1, Nunn was shooting 29.3 percent for just 29 points in 104 minutes of play throughout the postseason. Those issues dwindled down for Nunn, who scored 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting and added 5 rebounds in under 20 minutes off the bench.

With Goran Dragic’s (torn plantar fascia) availability uncertain for Game 2, Nunn’s performance opens the door for a potential minutes boost and an opportunity to redeem himself from his recent woes.

Better yet, it would ease things up offensively for a Heat team eager to even the series at 1-1.

— Michael Yero.

5. First quarter man-to-man match-ups on Lebron and AD worked. 

The Heat came out in man-to-man defense Wednesday, with Jimmy Butler guarding Lebron James full court while Jae Crowder matched-up against Anthony Davis. 

Crowder forced David to miss on the first possession of the game and again at the 9:23 mark. Still, the reigning First-Team forward managed to score five points when guarded by Crowder early on. Davis’ second field goal came after Crowder got caught in a screen. He finished the first quarter with 11 points after the Heat went small and could no longer slow his production. 

Butler was making it difficult early for James, whose only field goal in the first quarter was after he drew a switch and hit a contested three-point attempt over Miami’s Bam Adebayo.

— Kyle Murphy.

6. Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro’s efficiency is needed to make it a game.

For the first time since Miami’s season-finale against the Indiana Pacers (played 13 minutes), Duncan Robinson was held scoreless on 0 of 3 shooting in 27 minutes of play. It’s Robinson’s first 0 point game in the postseason and just his second throughout the 2019-20 season.

His shooting was obviously in needed in Game 1, especially when L.A. found a touch that garnered them 11 first-half three-pointers. Without Robinson, the Heat’s only expected three-point shooters are Jae Crowder and rookie Tyler Herro, who also faced a difficult night.

Herro finished with 14 points of 6 of 18 shooting, 2 of 8 from downtown. His performance notched him a -35, tied for the lowest +/- by a player in a Finals game since 2000, per StatMuse.

Comparing those numbers to Herro, who averaged 19.2 points in the Eastern Conference Finals and Robinson, who had 12.5 per game, and it’s points the Heat need to compete with a powerhouse offense like the Lakers’.

— Michael Yero.

7. Jae Crowder is doing it all for the Heat.

Part of the Heat culture is having a passion to work against anybody at hand. In the case of Jae Crowder, he had the most difficult task of the night: Anthony Davis.

According to NBA Stats, it was Crowder who gave Davis the most trouble, as he shot 2 of 7 (28.57 percent) when defended by the forward. Better yet, Crowder is finally gone from his shooting slump, finishing Game 1 with 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting from deep.

Prior to the Finals, Crowder was shooting a poor 14.28 percent (4 of 28) shooting in his previous four games, a struggle that was impacting Miami’s usual offensive flow.

— Michael Yero.

8. Heat’s 3-PT shooting started strong. 

The Heat hit three shots from downtown to game the game started. Crowder got Miami’s first basket from three-point range early and Butler hit another one on the team’s ensuing possession. The team’s third straight made three pointer and Crowder’s second of the game forced a time out from the Lakers and closed out a 13-0 run that put the Heat up 23-10 with five and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter. 

After the hot start in the first part of the first quarter, they only made one of their next six attempts and closed the first quarter shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc.

After Solomon Hill and Tyler Herro missed three-point shots early in the second quarter, the Heat went on another hot-streak. Butler hit his second three-pointer and Herro found the mark two consecutive times for a solo 6-0 run to help Miami regain their lead, 43-41, and force a Laker time-out with 7:30 left in the first half. 

— Kyle Murphy.

9. Injuries a concern going forward. 

The biggest lingering effect from Game 1 will be the Heat’s health. Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both left the game in different occasions and didn’t return. Dragic appeared to step on Rondo’s ankle and Adebayo got hurt in a collision with Dwight Howard in the third quarter.

Additionally, Jimmy Butler was hobbling at times with what looked like an ankle injury. If Heat fans wrote a list before the series of three guys that can’t get hurt, it’s almost certain that most would select those three.

— Kyle Murphy.

10. Trips to the free-throw line are urgent.

From Jimmy Butler to Bam Adebayo, one of Miami’s better traits is the ability to create contact and earn trips to the charity stripe. In fact, entering the Finals, 20.2 percent of their postseason points came from free-throws, the second-highest in the league.

That wasn’t the case in Game 1, as they only had 14 attempts from the free-throw line, making 11. That accounts for just 11.1 percent of Miami’s 98 points on Wednesday, per NBA Stats. Compared to L.A.’s 25 of 27 free-throw shooting, it was unarguably another disadvantage the Heat had under its belt.

— Michael Yero.

305 Sports is dedicated to providing in-depth analysis and coverage of Miami Sports.

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