"Mama, there goes that man!"
Anthony Davis continued his dominance in his first career NBA Finals, leading the Lakers to a 124-114 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers lead the series 2-0, and the Heat are left dangling over the precipice, as they juggle a bevy of injuries to their starting lineup.
The shorthanded Heat were without starting center Bam Adebayo (shoulder) and point guard Goaran Dragic, who suffered a torn plantar fascia in Game 1.
"This team has a lot of fight and are extremely difficult to guard no matter who is in uniform," said Lakers' head coach Frank Vogel about the Heat. "They become different with Bam and Dragic out, but they kept fighting and stayed in the game."
Following Game 1, Heat forward Jimmy Butler admitted he would need to be more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor without Dragic and Adebayo in Game 2.
From the opening tip to the final buzzer, Butler did everything he could to get his teammates going, while finding his own shots on the floor. Butler finished with a team-high 25 points and a game-high 13 assists.
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"We're never giving up. We're going to fight. We're going to ride until the wheels fall off," said Butler after the loss. "It's not over. We're just down 0-2 and now we have to do something special."
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra inserted Tyler Herro into the starting lineup in place of Dragic. The decision made Herro, 20, the youngest player to start an NBA Finals game in NBA history, surpassing Lakers' legend Magic Johnson by just 10 days. Herro rewarded his coach with 17 points.
Kelly Olynk scored 24 points off the bench in the loss, and Kendrick Nunn chipped in 13 points.
"If you want something bad enough, you'll find a way to overcome it," said Spoelstra of the Heat facing an 0-2 hole. "We're trying to get something accomplished and we have to go to another level."
For the second straight game, Miami had absolutely no answer for Davis. Despite never appearing in the NBA Finals before Wednesday, Davis is already carving out a place for himself among the Pantheon of the NBA's greatest players.
Davis' dominance was on full display in Game 2, scoring 32 points and 14 rebounds. Davis also ramped up the intensity in the second half, scoring 15 points in the third quarter alone. Davis became the fifth player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in his first two career NBA Finals games.
"He wants to be a champion," Vogel said of Davis. "He's extremely motivated and focused and you're seeing it on the floor. You can just see his determination to win this championship on both sides of the ball, but tonight it was even more on the offensive end."
LeBron James had no problem finding his tag team partner throughout the game, scoring 33 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. James is now two wins away from the fourth NBA Championship of his illustrious career.
"They're unbelievable," said Vogel of James and Davis. "They work for each other. Both of them are playing at such an elite level and are extremely determined to win a championship. They're playing at an extremely high level, and hopefully we can get two more wins."
James and Davis joined Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant as the only duo in Lakers franchise history to each score 30 points in an NBA Finals game.
"I can't even believe I'm up here talking about myself and AD compared with Kobe and Shaq," said James when told of the elite company they joined. "It's unbelievable and an honor. It's humbling."
Rajon Rondo had 16 points and 10 assists off the bench. Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each had 11 in the victory.
"We came out with a killer mindset tonight because of Kobe Bryant," said Rajon Rondo to ESPN after the game. "He always played every game like it was his last, and putting on that jersey means a lot to everyone in that locker room. We understand his legacy."
After starting scorching hot from three-point range in Game 1, the Lakers missed their first six shots from downtown in Game 2.
The early poor shooting allowed the Heat to hold an early 8-6 lead, but the Lakers quickly went on an 8-0 run, and would never trail again. Despite the Heat's best efforts to remain in the game, the Lakers were in total control from start to finish.
The Lakers led 29-23 at the end of the first quarter, and by 14 at halftime. Driven by Davis, the Lakers led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter.
Without Adebayo as their defensive anchor in the middle, the Heat relied heavily on their 2-3 zone throughout the course of the game. The zone left plenty of wide-open three-point opportunities for Los Angeles who shot an NBA Finals record 28 three-pointers in the first half.
"With their zone, they want you to shoot the three, and our shooters were a little bit off tonight, but we did a good job of getting into the teeth of the zone and finding those guys," said Davis.
Thanks to Davis in the high-post, and James running the baseline, the Lakers were easily able to pick apart Miami's zone and obtain whatever shot they wanted throughout the night.
"We know the spacing we want to get to," said Vogel. "There's a few different alignments we want to get to in their zone and we were able to get to a lot of them tonight. AD [Anthony Davis] and LeBron are great at finding the holes and getting guys open shots."
The Lakers dominated the paint for the second straight game, 56-46, and out-rebounded the Heat, 44-37 (including 16 offensive rebounds), leading to nine fast-break points.
The Lakers improved to 55-0 this season when leading after three quarters, and are a perfect 4-0 in the postseason when wearing their Kobe Bryant designed "Black Mamba" jerseys.
The Heat have never trailed in a series throughout the course of the NBA Playoffs until the Finals. Now, they're staring directly at an 0-2 deficit against a superior Lakers team that smells blood in the Walt Disney World water.
Game 3 is on Sunday night at 4:30PM PT.