Anthony Davis had his way in Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals. Davis finished with a game-high 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists shooting 52.4 percent from the field in the Lakers' 116-98 blowout win over the Heat.
It doesn't take a basketball genius to realize that the Heat's chance of winning this year's championship are slim if Davis is allowed to do what he did in Game 1.
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After the loss, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talked about the importance of finding a way to slow down the All-Star big man going forward.
"We have 48 hours to figure out what the next plan of attack will be," Spoelstra said. "He was extremely good tonight, and we have to be better."
A simple message, but can the Heat be better?
In his first playoff run with real championship expectations, Davis has answered the call. The 26-year-old is leading the Lakers in scoring averaging 29.1 points, 9.3 rebounds shooting 56.7 percent from the field. Davis has been great and at times dominant in the postseason, but Game 1 looked almost too easy for him.
Of the 11 made field goals Davis had in Game 1, seven of them came from point-blank range. It felt at times as if we were watching a layup and dunk fest featuring AD.
But this isn't new for Davis, it's been the trend throughout the playoffs. Davis has punched in 196 points in the paint in the postseason, which is only second to his teammate LeBron James.
It's one of Miami's biggest tasks in the Finals. How do they keep the Lakers out of the paint?
More specifically how do they keep Davis and to a lesser extent, James, from the easy looks they feasted on in Game 1. But is that really the problem they should be worried about the most?
The most obvious answer to basketball fans would be to rely on the zone defence that helped Miami get to this point. The Heat didn't use the zone much against the Pacers in the first round or the Bucks in the second round but it was their primary trump card in the Conference Finals against Boston.
Historically the 2-3 zone has been used to prevent opponents from dominating in the paint. However, that wasn't the case in the Conference Finals.
Boston averaged 45.7 points per game in the paint against the Heat. In round one against the 76ers, the Celtics managed just 39.0 points per game in the paint and 41.4 against the Raptors in round two. On the surface, it looked as though the 2-3 zone wasn't doing what it was set out to do, which is typically prevent paint points. But Miami's zone is different, it's almost as though they're encouraging you to play inside the 3-point line while they make life tough for you on the perimeter. The Celtics found ways to get to the paint against the Heat, but they couldn't make 3s and now they're watching the Finals at home.
The Heat are holding teams to just 34.7 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs. The Pacers, Bucks and Celtics could never get going from deep - Miami wouldn't allow them.
The Heat's defence has been fine with teams hitting singles on them if they can prevent you from hitting home runs. In Game 1, Davis was hitting singles and his teammates were knocking it out the park.
The Lakers finished the game going 15-for-38 from long range in their Game 1 win. They shot 11-for-17 in the first half, which blew the game wide open. Davis will score and there are certainly things the Heat can do to make things tougher on him going forward, but if the Lakers shoot the way they did in Game 1, it might not matter.
"I don't have my message right now," Spoelstra said of the adjustments to be made. "But I've got a night to figure it out. Right now, doesn't really matter what you say. We'll get to work and get together tomorrow."
We can all assume we'll see more Heat zone in Game 2. Miami will certainly make life tougher for Davis than it was in his first-ever Finals game. He's a problem for the Heat, but he isn't the biggest one they have. Miami can't allow the Lakers to make threes. If they don't figure out how to stop that, the series will be over quickly.
Davis and the Lakers landed the first punch and it was a body blow. It's time for Miami to punch back.
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