Three keys for Lakers vs. Heat in Game 2
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After an 18-point rout in Game 1, Jimmy Butler knows most fans expect the Los Angeles Lakers to make quick work of the Miami Heat in the rest of the NBA Finals.
Butler doesn’t see it that way.
“They probably think they’re going to do it to us three more times in a row,” Butler said after practice Thursday. “I beg to differ.”
While Butler remains optimistic heading into Game 2 on Friday night (9 p.m. ET, ABC), it’s easy to see why one might not agree with the Heat star.
Los Angeles dominated in the opener. The superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis were at the top of their game, combining for 59 points on 20-of-38 shooting. The Lakers knocked down 15 3-pointers, including 11 in a huge first half when they took control. They used their size and physicality to punish the smaller Heat on the glass and enjoyed a 54-36 advantage in rebounding.
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And that doesn’t even factor in Miami’s injuries.
Goran Dragic (torn plantar fascia in left foot) and Bam Adebayo (neck strain) both left Game 1 early and are considered doubtful for Game 2. Butler turned his left ankle in the first half of the opener and hobbled through the rest of the game.
With two starters possibly out and a third potentially compromised, things look bleak for Miami. Can the Heat bounce back, or will the Lakers take control of the series? Here are three keys to watch in Game 2:
Filling the void
Dragic was the Heat’s leading scorer in the playoffs and their steadiest play-maker heading into the Finals. Adebayo has had a breakout postseason as a scoring and facilitating center. Their absence creates huge holes for Miami. Even if he isn’t quite 100%, Butler will need to step into the lead play-making role on offense. Rookie Kendrick Nunn will likely slide into a starting spot in the backcourt and will need to play to his early-season form in Dragic’s place.
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Based on his monster 34-point outing in Game 1, no one would know that Davis was making his NBA Finals debut. If Adebayo can’t go in Game 2, Davis could be even more dominant. Miami doesn’t have any other defenders who can keep up with Davis’ blend of size, strength, agility and shooting touch. Look for the Lakers to try to get Davis going early. A hot start for the big man could mean a very long night for the Heat.
One area where the Heat can tighten things up on defense without much adjustment is defending the 3-point line. The Lakers aren’t a particularly great 3-point shooting team, but they capitalized on a lot of open looks in Game 1, especially in the first half when they shot 11-of-17 from deep. Miami has done well defending the 3 in the playoffs, holding opponents to 34.8% shooting. If the Heat can do a better job of running the Lakers off the 3-point line, they’ll bolster their chances of winning Game 2.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.