Los Angeles Lakers

In First NBA Finals Since Kobe Bryant led LA in 2010, Lakers Beat Heat, 116-98, in Game 1

In his first career NBA Finals appearance, Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 34 points.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

There were no inklings of awe or uneasiness, no signs of nerves or stage fright, just utter domination.

In their first NBA Finals since Kobe Bryant lifted the Larry O'Brien trophy in 2010, the new-look Los Angeles Lakers introduced themselves to the world with a 116-98 blowout victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

In his first career NBA Finals appearance, Anthony Davis dominated every defender the Heat threw at him. Davis finished with a game-high 34 points to go with nine rebounds and five assists.

"It's the Finals. It's the first time I've experienced this," said Davis. "I just wanted to come out with a lot of energy and come out aggressive on the offensive glass. I wanted to dominate the paint area."

After sweeping the higher-seeded Indiana Pacers in the first round, dismantling two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the second, and beating up on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami looked overmatched against the veteran-laden Lakers.

"You don't want to leave anything to chance in the Finals," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. "We clearly have to be a lot better."

Throughout the NBA Playoffs, the Heat have scorched teams with their three-point shooting, but it was the Lakers who were on fire from beyond the arc in Game 1.


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Los Angeles shot over 60 percent from deep in the first half, and finished 14-of-36 from three-point range in the victory. Every player who appeared in the game with the exception of Dwight Howard made a three-pointer.

"We have great shooters," said LeBron James who had two threes himself. "That spacing allows myself and AD [Anthony Davis] to do what we do in the interior. When you have guys that can space the floor like we have, it allows us to do what we do in the paint."

Howard returned to the starting lineup after replacing JaVale McGee in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

"This [Miami Heat] team has won the first two games in every series they've played, so we wanted to win Game 1," said Vogel of why he remained with Howard. " We liked what our lineups looked like with Dwight Howard. He had a great finish to the Denver series. He's a physical and imposing presence against Bam [Adebayo] and we liked him in that role."

The Lakers size and length overwhelmed Miami and created matchup nightmares for Spoelstra's team. Not to mention the Lakers half-court defense that completely smothered Miami's offense, denying layups at the rim with eight blocks, and wide-open looks from three.

"They [Miami Heat] play small a lot and so he always has a favorable matchup on him," said Vogel of Anthony Davis. "He's a great player. The moment doesn't change things for him. He stays the same. He's focused and locked in and can beat you in a variety of ways."

Injuries didn't help the Heat either, as starting point guard Goran Dragic (foot), center Bam Adebayo (shoulder), and all-star forward Jimmy Butler (left ankle) all left the game. The latter, Butler, returned in the second half, but was clearly hobbled.

"You never want to see a guy get hurt," said Davis. "Guys have worked extremely hard to be here and Goran [Dragic] and Bam [Adebayo] are key guys to their team. It always sucks when guys get injured. We still have to worry about the other guys that are going to play and go out there and win the series."

After three consecutive Gentleman's Sweeps leading up to the NBA Finals, Lakers' head coach Frank Vogel promised his team would be "locked in" for Game 1.

The Lakers must have not listened as they started sluggish, trailing 23-10 after the first few minutes of action. However, L.A. responded with a 21-5 run of their own to take a 31-28 lead after the first quarter. They would never trail again.

"They smacked us in the mouth," said James. "We had to get a feel for how hard Miami plays. So after they got out to a 23-10 lead, we knew how hard we had to play to be in this game."

The Lakers seized control against the shorthanded Heat in the second half, controlling the paint as they jumped out to a 32-point lead midway through the third quarter.

Butler did his best to keep the Heat in the game, scoring 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Kendrick Nunn scored 18 points off the bench. Tyler Herro had 14.

"I just take what the game gives me for the most part," said Butler of his quiet 23 points. "I still have a lot of belief in all my teammates. I still have to make sure everybody else gets their touches and the shots they need. We've been playing this way all along and that's our formula for success."

Ironically, the Lakers and Heat have played in 13 out of the last 20 NBA Finals, more than any other teams including Cleveland and Golden State. LeBron James alone has played in 10 out of the last 20 NBA Finals.

Seeking his fourth NBA Championship, James silently flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists.

"I've been preparing for this moment for quite awhile," said James. "Fans or no fans, the inner challenge to be playing in the Finals again was great, but we have so much more work to do. The job is not done and we're not satisfied winning one game. It's that simple."

In what is assumed to be the first NBA Finals without fans in attendance, neither team seemed to be lacking the energy, motivation, or intensity needed.

For the millions of Lakers fans watching at home throughout the world, they were elated to see legends Shaquille O'Neal, Barack Obama, and Pau Gasol (wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey) among the virtual fans watching the game.

Friends and family in attendance applauded, screamed, and cheered with delight as the Lakers played inspired basketball throughout the game. Kentavious-Caldwell Pope had 13 points and Danny Green chipped in 11.

"I'm just ready to shoot and try and stay in a rhythm," said Caldwell Pope. "I try not to worry about how many shots I'm getting or how the game is going. I just try and play my game: defense, run the floor, and knock down shots when the ball comes to me."

Green and James are both looking to join elite company as players who have won an NBA Championship with three different teams.

As both Green and James will tell you, its important to begin any series on the right foot, especially in the NBA Finals.

The Lakers started the series off with a convincing win, proving why they are the overwhelming favorites to win the series. Now, the Heat must respond and try and accomplish the daunting task of stopping not one, but two superstars in James and Davis in Game 2.

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