That was a lot of fun although I really hate it when guys get injured in the playoffs, leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. But it is what it is so we’ll have to hope Dragic, Butler and Bam are good to go tomorrow night while also expecting the Lakers to bring their A game. I would say we got a B/B+ game from the squad last night and, with the help of injuries to key players and some under-performing on the Heat’s part, brought the first NBA Finals win in a good long while home.
- Lakers have found their way, the way is defense, and they are putting in work to make it happen. There’s not much you can do when a team defense is as locked in as the Lakers are right now. It’s not like we’re doing anything new, we;re just executing the bedrock principles of Frank Vogel’s schemes with excellence, communicating well on the back line and doing a fantastic job of adjusting or switching schemes or coverage’s on the fly. It’s easier to make this look good when superstars buy in and even easier when those guys are AD and LBJ. Danny Green was also excellent on defense last night. This series will be won on this end, as all of our series have been won up to now.
- Welcome to the NBA Finals Anthony Davis! His NBA Finals debut in terms of points scored tied for 3rd in Laker Lore (He and Elgin both dropped 34, George Mikan and Shaq are ahead of them). He also blocked 3 shots, had 9 rebounds and 5 assists. AD is a riddle I don’t think Miami has an answer for. They can slot Bam on him but it won’t be enough and it’ll mean you’re playing Kelly Olynyk or another under-sized player is going to have to contain Dwight Howard. Speaking of Dwight, his return trip to the NBA Finals was highlighted by two awesome dishes to AD on drives to the hoop for easy buckets. The Heat basically have to hope for a bad game from Davis, they don’t have a player that can stop him and doubling opens up an evolving passing game.
- That other good player we have, what’s his name…oh yeah! LeBron James. The King missed another triple-double by one assist. You could tell he was fishing for it a bit at the end but then quickly shut that down by returning to a more aggressive posture and scoring at will. Miami, like the rest of the NBA, doesn’t have much of an answer for ‘Bron. Iggy is up for it but lacks the legs or conditioning to hang with him all game and after that it’s Crowder who is more of a foul risk and lacks the acumen and savvy AI brings. I expect to see Miami double LeBron and force other guys like AD to make plays, the problem being that they can and will. Also, Frank’s got an easy counter to that in subbing Rondo in for either KCP or Green. Then you have to account for off-ball LBJ and we’ve seen how that fares, thus far.
- Laker Bench did enough. Outside of Caruso and Morris the Laker bench didn’t bring a lot of offense. Miami, when healthy, has the better scoring bench with Tyler Herro, Iggy and the oft-overlooked Kendrick Nunn. If Dragic can’t go I actually expect to see Nunn return to the starting line up. The rookie was on the All NBA rookie team, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting (despite the late surge of Zion). Between Nunn and Herro the Heat have some decent options to replace G=Dragic. I would add at this moment that, before you go writing rookies off in the NBA Finals citing a lack of experience or what-have-you that you take a moment and recall one Earvin “Magic” Johnson who corralled an NBA Finals MVP of his own after a serious ankle injury forced Kareem to sit out against Philly while one Pat Riley sat in the broadcast booth that season calling color alongside Laker legend Chick Hearn. Lotta mystical mojo there. There’s a benefit to being young: you don’t know what you don’t know, coach just tells you to go ball and you’re loose. Not saying that’s what’s coming but cautioning against dissing NBA talent from the comfort of one’s chair.
- What to expect in game 2. I think we’ll see more of Kelly Olynyk matching up against Dwight and if Bam sits out a game (which I don’t expect but will likely end up being a game time call) we might even see Myers Leonard. While this shouldn’t strike fear into the heart of Laker Nation it does present a slightly different challenge. Kelly-O is a willing three point shooter and under-rated defender. Like everyone on the Heat he plays hard and has no quit in him. Myers and Kelly could bang with Howard and burn fouls on AD, making him work harder than he wants to. I expect Spo to gum up the works of the game. They can’t keep up with us so they need to slow the game down, muck it up, play more like Riles’ Knickerbockers back in the 90’s. Jimmy Butler would have to be killed vampire-style in order not to play, he’s playing. Goran Dragic is a whole other issue. If he’s got a torn plantar I don’t see how he can be effective. That means Miami will either start bigger (maybe have Iggy start) but I think they’ll call on Kendrick and turn him loose while keeping the rest of the playoff rotation that has worked as-is. There aren’t a ton of options. Mainly the Heat need to play more to type, they need to generate more free throws and be more aggressive driving to the rim. It was only one game and the Miami Heat can definitely play better than we saw last night. I still think there’s a series here, even if Dragic can’t go. But they need to play pretty perfect basketball and I don’t see them doing that for 4 of the next 6 games. They can make it competitive, I still don’t see them winning it all.