Miami: The Los Angeles Lakers manhandled the Miami Heat 116-98 in game one of the NBA Finals on Wednesday in a dominant start to their quest for a 17th championship.
After a 10-year absence from the championship series, the Lakers returned with a vengeance in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Anthony Davis, in the best-of-seven title series for the first time after years of frustration in New Orleans, scored 34 points to lead the Lakers.
“I felt good,” Davis said. “A little nervous, but when the ball was tipped up, I just went out there and played basketball. This is a moment I’ve waited for my entire career and I want to make sure I take the opportunity, because it doesn’t come around too often.”
LeBron James, the fourth player to make a 10th appearance in the NBA Finals, was just shy of a triple double with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” James said afterwards. “The job is not done. We’re not satisfied winning one game. It’s that simple.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 13 points and Danny Green contributed 11 for the Lakers, who led by as many as 32 points.
The Heat, the Eastern Conference fifth seeds who swept the Indiana Pacers before toppling the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics on the way to the Finals, showed no sign of nerves in an energetic start against the Western Conference top seeds, racing to a 13-point lead midway through the first quarter.
But the Lakers inexorably seized control and the Heat’s dream start devolved into a nightmare with key contributors Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo exiting with injuries and star forward Jimmy Butler hobbled by a twisted ankle.
Butler still scored 23 points to lead the Heat, who will try to bounce back in game two on Friday.
Davis and James both said the Lakers need to start stronger in game two, after Miami came out firing.
“They came out very hot, we came out slow.” Added James: “I think they smacked us in the mouth, and we got a sense of that.
“And so we knew how hard we had to play if we wanted to try to make it a game. From that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities. We started flying around. We started getting defensive stops. We started sharing the ball a lot better offensively and just got into a really good groove.”
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