The Laker blueprint for success was laid out early in training camp. The bedrock principle of this team would be defense that would fuel a devastating fast break attack led by LeBron James. AD and LBJ bought in to the defense early, used the transition game expertly and had guys on the team that created enough space for it all to work in the half court. That recipe led us all the way until game 2 of the NBA Finals when something…unexpected happened.
- “Take what the defense gives you.” This aged sport axiom is casually tossed around often. Last night the Los Angeles Lakers took that to record breaking heights by first establishing a new NBA record for three pointers in a half (27) and then continuing on and breaking the record for threes in an NBA Finals game (47). While we didn’t hit those threes at an absurd level (34.7%) we hit enough to maintain a comfortable lead, create offensive rebounds for easy second chance points and to stall out Miami’s zone defense. This record might last as long as it takes to get to 4 PM (PST) on Sunday when Miami is quite likely to trot that zone out again and the Lakers will take the open shots provided.
- Nifty post passing. It’s already a trend in the series and it was started in game 1 by Dwight Howard when he had more assist (2) then buckets made (0). Last night saw a plethora of Lakers get behind the zone, get the ball and drop a quick pass into the paint for a hoop. The problem with a zone is it doesn’t account for large areas of the court and there has always been truth that the pass is the quickest way to move the ball. Defense’s can track a pass but when they come in quick succession they can’t keep up. I don’t care how long or fast you are, it’s an impossible task. The Lakers broke the Miami zone by accepting and shooting the open threes and getting easy duck-ins behind the defense.
- The most dominant pair in the NBA. LeBron and Anthony are reaching Kobe/Shaq heights in terms of Laker lore and overall NBA dominance. Miami has no answer, none, for this version of Anthony Davis and James has long been as unstoppable a force as has existed in the Association. Last night they continued their romp and are putting up video game numbers on the Heat. James barely missed a triple double, Davis is either shooting over or blowing by any of the defenders Miami puts on him and James and Davis out-rebounded the Heat starters (23-22) on their own. It doesn’t feel like there is an adjustment Miami can make at this point. Even if Bam gets healthy and back on the court he alone isn’t enough to contain Davis and nobody has been able to single-handily stop LeBron since he came into the league. The Zone is (was…) Miami’s best chance at an equalizer. It’s not working.
- The Laker Bench putting in work. The bench of LA was monstrous last night. Everyone who played scored, except for JR Smith, and every one hit at least 2 threes. The Laker bench took the challenge thrown down by Miami (beat us from three) and ran with it. The Laker bench helped corral this win with their three point shot considering that Danny Green (1-8) and KCP (2-11) shot terribly from distance. While we took the three in volume we made our standard amount (34%) and that was due to the bench showing up.
- Don’t let the wounded animal bite you. Miami looks done, body language signals they’re done. I don’t believe it, while I now have serious doubts about my earlier prediction (6 games but also that was a non-jinx us prediction, I also have a Tom Hanks in Castaway beard and hair style going until we pull this thing out) I feel like Miami could win a game with a Bam boost. I’ll be surprised if Dragic plays again, Foot injuries are nothing to mess with especially being a couple short months away from a likely 2021 season. But a Bam boost could propel Miami to a win and avoid the sweep. There have been 8 total Finals sweeps since the ABA/NBA merger in 1949: 2006-07 (Spurs swept Cleveland), 2001-02 (Lakers swept Nets), 1994-95 (Rockets swept Magic), 1988-89 (Pistons sweep injury-riddled Lakers), 1982-83 (Philly swept LA), 1974-75 (warriors sweep Bullets of Washington), 1970-71 (Bucks sweep Bullets of Baltimore) and 1958-59 Boston sweeps the Lakers of Minneapolis). That’s it. So I still expect this Heat squad to do everything possible to avoid joining that ignominious list. We’ll see if they can.
All in all that was a dominating performance on both ends of the court. Lakers seem to have figured out where the chinks in Miami’s armor are and are hammering away bath those spots without mercy. As they should.