The Miami Heat were clicking. In the opening minutes of Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals, Jimmy Butler and his teammates were on fire. They raced to a 23-10 lead with 5:38 remaining in the opening quarter, forcing the Los Angeles Lakers into an early timeout. The buzz was palpable as it was clear Miami could hang with the big boys from LA. Then reality set in and the Lakers looked like a championship team.
That early run was the high point of a profoundly disappointing night for the Heat. Los Angeles answered that early onslaught with a 21-8 run of its own and actually led at the end of the first quarter, then 65-48 at halftime. It was barely a contest after that.
The Lakers took Miami's best punch and never seemed rattled. Instead, they walked right on through that haymaker like it was a love tap. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and their teammates stayed calm, made adjustments and began to pound the Heat into submission. At one point the lead ballooned to 87-55 with 6:04 left in the third. Yes, in the opening game of the NBA Finals we were already in garbage time by the third quarter. The Lakers did relax a bit and let Miami get back within 12 late in the fourth quarter but they were never challenged, securing a 116-98 win.
The lesson from Game 1 was that the Heat simply can't compete with a Lakers team running on all cylinders. In every aspect of the game, LA was the demonstrably better team. A Miami squad that out-toughed its opponents on its way through the Eastern Conference playoffs felt completely overmatched by the length and brawn of the bigger Lakers. LA out-rebounded the Heat 54-36 and I'm shocked it was that close.
It was a bad night for everyone on the Heat. Jimmy Butler, the center of Miami's franchise, was a dismal -14 and twisted his ankle. Orlando bubble star Tyler Herro was a mind-boggling -35 in 30 minutes. As if things couldn't get worse, the Heat seemed to lose their spirit when both Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo left with injuries. Their status for the rest of the series is unknown, but does it really matter?