After a 10-year title drought, the Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions once again.
With dynamic performances by LeBron James (28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists) and Anthony Davis (19 points and 15 rebounds), the Lakers outplayed the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Walt Disney World in Florida. Their 106-93 victory completed a coronation that appeared unlikely when the pandemic-impacted NBA season tipped off on October 22.
But now the Lakers, who missed the playoffs last season with a 37-45 record, are NBA champions. Bubble champions.
Coach Frank Vogel, in his first season at the helm, directed Los Angeles to the storied franchise’s 17th title. The Lakers went 52-19 this season.
Lakers tie Celtics for most titles
And now, the Lakers have tied the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history.
Coincidentally, the Celtics won their last title in 2008 by beating the Lakers in the Finals.
LeBron James, appearing in his 10th NBA Finals, is now a four-time Finals MVP and a four-time champ. He previously won a pair of titles with the Miami Heat (2012, ’13) and another with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2016).
All-time great Bill Russell, who won a record 11 titles with the Celtics, paid tribute to LeBron, who made 13 of 20 field-goal attempts, and the Lakers.
“It’s odd not being @ #NBAFinals but @MiamiHEAT put up a good fight Strange times in the @NBA Bubble,” Russell tweeted. “I may not be there but I want to say Congratulations to @KingJames for winning the #BillRussellFinalsMVPaward & Congratulations to the @lakers.“
LeBron reflects on his fourth title
It surprised nobody that a reporter asked LeBron to compare the experiences of winning a title in 2020 with his aforementioned three previous championships.
“I think they are all special in their own right,” said the future Hall of Famer, who became the first Finals MVP with three teams. “They all have their obstacles, things that went on throughout the course of the year, both on and off the floor.
“But one is not less than the other, because when you’re able to put yourself in this position to be able to win a championship, first thing you start to think about is how much work you’ve put in over the course of the year. How much you’ve sacrificed, how much you’ve dedicated to the game and to your craft. That’s always been the most fulfilling thing for me, besides seeing my teammates as happy as they are.”
Emotional ending for Lakers
Throughout the season, the Lakers mourned the death of the five-time champion Kobe Bryant, who was killed along with his daughter Gianna and several others in a helicopter crash on January 26 near Los Angeles.
Sunday’s victory gave them their first title since Kobe won his last championship.
After the game, team owner Jeanie Buss reflected on the team’s emotional journey this season.
“You have written your own inspiring chapter in the great Laker history,” Buss told reporters. “And to Laker Nation, we have been through a heartbreaking tragedy with the loss of our beloved Kobe Bryant. Let this trophy serve as a reminder of when we come together, believe in each other, incredible things can happen.”
LA’s dominant first half
The Lakers took care of business in the first half, grabbing control of the game.
Miami trailed 64-36 at halftime.
In addition to big-time performances by James and Davis, savvy veteran guard Rajon Rondo was instrumental in the Lakers’ tone-setting effort in the first half.
Rondo made 6 of 6 shots from the floor in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Lakers closed out the half on an 18-4 spurt over the final five minutes.
From there, it was a matter of the clock ticking away the minutes until the coronation was complete.
Lakers deliver strong effort
Rondo put his stamp on the game with 19 points and four assists, while teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 17 points. Danny Green, who missed a wide-open 3-pointer in the closing seconds in Game 5, added 11 points.
In addition to balanced scoring, the Lakers held the Heat to under 40 percent shooting in the first half. It was a concerted defensive effort, with each Lakers player contributing at that end of the floor.
The operative phrase was “being locked in,” according to Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
“That was probably the most we’ve ever been locked in during the season,” Kuzma declared. “Man, barely made mistakes. Everybody was coming in trying to guard somebody.”
Spoelstra reacts to end of series
Longtime Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took the loss in stride.
“We didn’t get the final result that we wanted,” Spoelstra said. “But even what I mentioned to the guys, these are going to be lifetime memories that we have together. This locker room … we’re going to remember this year, this season, this experience and that locker room brotherhood for the rest of our lives.”
Top Heat performers in Game 6
For Miami, rising star Bam Adebayo finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Jimmy Butler, who scored 35 points in a powerful Game 5 performance, had 12 points, seven boards, and eight assists. Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson provided 12 and 10 points, respectively.
During the 2020 playoffs, Butler established himself as a bona-fide NBA superstar in the eyes of the word. But Spoelstra already recognized that.
Just ask him.
Or as he told reporters after the Heat’s Game 6 defeat to the Lakers: “Jimmy has a superstar competitive spirit to him. If you try to evaluate him or put him in a conventional box of how you view a modern-day basketball player, you’re totally missing the boat on JB. He is a winner, he is a leader, he is a motivator, a mentor and just a supreme competitor.”
A season like no other
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA halted its season on March 11. By early July, 22 of 30 NBA teams convened in Florida to relaunch the season behind closed doors. Real games began on July 30
And after the Lakers conquered the Heat, Caldwell-Pope spoke about living in the NBA bubble for several months.
“It took a lot of sacrifice,” he acknowledged. “The first two to three months, I was without my kids and my wife. But you know, I have my teammates, my brothers. They keep me level-headed. Did not really get into that side, but knowing my family was back at home supporting me, and I could get them here to see them, but it was just sacrificing.
“I wanted to focus on this playoff series and become world champs. That was my focus…”
Butler’s thoughts on Heat’s future
In the final analysis, Butler insisted, the Heat will build off their experience facing the Lakers in this year’s Finals.
As a result, this experience will make them a better team.
“We’re trending in the right direction,” Butler stated. “We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to get better. … We’ll be back.”