Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals was more of a massacre than the 116–98 final score indicates. There were stretches where the Los Angeles Lakers made the Miami Heat resemble the perennially mediocre Charlotte Hornets, even though both teams entered Wednesday night with a 12–3 record in the playoffs.
Up until now, Miami had been gritty and resilient, spring-loaded with enticing young star power, brilliant coaching, complementary role players, and a sensible identity embraced by everyone in their locker room. It’s too early to call the series either way, but Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic both had their Game 1’s cut short by painful injuries that won’t disappear before Friday night, and Jimmy Butler rolled his ankle. The Heat were unkillable horror-movie villains in the Eastern Conference Finals, but there’s only so much any one team can overcome.
In that vein, here are four stats from Game 1 that show just how screwed Miami might be, and just how dominant the Lakers truly were.
1. Over two and a half quarters, the Lakers outscored Miami 83–44.
This pretty much sums up Miami’s annihilation. After the Heat lost an early 13-point lead, not only did their wheels immediately start to fall off, but someone then smashed a brick through their windshield, stuffed a potato in their exhaust pipe, and filled their trunk with wet cement. It was a catastrophe. Miami’s offensive rating from the halfway point of the first quarter through the end of the third was 75.8. For reference, their lowest offensive rating in any game during the regular season was 85.1. The Heat’s opponent that night? The Lakers.
But that stretch of time was also a platform for Anthony Davis, who, in 25 minutes, tallied 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, went 6–6 from the free-throw line, 9–15 from the floor, and finished +38. Davis was easily the best player on the court and threw his name into the “best player alive” discussion with more force than ever before. The Heat simply had no answer for him, be it on the glass, in the post, or as the menacing rim protector Boston’s Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter could never be. Davis finished the game with 34–9–5, one of the strongest Finals debuts ever seen.
There are a couple other interesting wrinkles tucked in here too. The Lakers outscored the Heat by 23 points in the second and third quarters. The last time that happened in the Finals was Game 2, back in 2011, when the Mavs tied up their series against LeBron’s Heat and lifted themselves with the puncher’s chance they needed to win it all. Beyond that, only seven teams have ever outscored their opponent by over 23 points in the middle two quarters of a Finals game—on three occasions, the Boston Celtics did it to L.A.
2. Tyler Herro finished -35.
Individual plus/minus stats can be a bad way to evaluate one player’s performance. There are so many different variables that decide the outcome of every possession, and so many of them are outside any one player’s control (for instance, Kelly Olynyk was +14 last night because he only came on after the Lakers’ lead was so big that they relaxed their grip on the game). That said, Herro’s historically poor showing here wasn’t an accident.
After he spent the entire Eastern Conference Finals impersonating Devin Booker, Herro spent Game 1 of this series as LeBron’s lunch meat. James repeatedly punished the 20-year-old rookie at the start of possessions by instructing whoever Herro was guarding to come up and set a ball screen. When the rookie switched, LeBron licked his lips, put his head down, and barreled his way into the paint.
When Herro showed — meaning he momentarily engaged the ball so James’ original defender could have enough time to recover back from the initial screen — and then scurried back to his original assignment, LeBron immediately whipped a pass that put the rest of Miami’s defense in rotations until the Lakers found an open shot. (This is one of the reasons why an impressive 16 percent of L.A.’s field goal attempts were corner 3’s, and they went 11-for-22 from above the break.)
After three quarters, Herro was -39, which is a mark that’s only been topped (bottomed?) eight times in the playoffs since 1997. The lowest plus-minus anybody’s had in a playoff game since 1997 is Andre Drummond, who was -45 in last season’s Round 1 opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. The last player who was -35 in the Finals was Kobe Bryant in the series clincher at Boston’s TD Garden in 2008 — arguably the most humbling loss of his great career.
This stat basically means that the Lakers blew Miami out without running the floor on fast breaks. It’s extremely bad news for the Heat. This entire season, Los Angeles’ transition frequency only dropped below 8.6 percent three times (their regular season average was nearly twice that number). Two were losses and one came on a Kyle Kuzma buzzer-beating 3 against the Denver Nuggets in a meaningless seeding game.
So, injuries aside, for the Lakers to demoralize a defense that’s as domineering as Miami’s has been all season in the halfcourt — well, that’s pretty horrifying. No, L.A. (probably?) won’t drill 50 percent of its above-the-break 3’s for the entire series, and those shots obviously help loosen any attack that can’t glide baseline to baseline. But those shots were also really open and created by the brilliant playmaking of Davis and LeBron. Those two were super-duper-stars in Game 1, against a team lacking the individual talent to overwhelm a defensive gameplan.
4. Los Angeles’ offensive rating in the 4th quarter was 88.5.
Yes, the game was pretty much over midway through the third quarter, and so much of those final 12 minutes were the definition of garbage time. The Lakers’ biggest lead was 32 and the Heat were forced to play Kelly Olynyk and Kendrick Nunn down the stretch after Dragic and Adebayo left the game. But that low offensive rating in the fourth still speaks to just how authoritative the Lakers were in the first three quarters. They’ve had worse offensive stretches this season, but to be that ineffective scoring the ball for 12 minutes without the outcome ever being in doubt is total command.
Originally Appeared on GQ