The Los Angeles Lakers are two wins away from an NBA championship.
Once again, Anthony Davis and LeBron James dominated as the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat 124-114 on Friday night in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
LeBron flirted with a triple-double (33 points, nine rebounds, nine assists), while Davis had 32 points on 15-for-20 shooting with a game-best 14 rebounds in 40 minutes.
For Davis, the stellar performance included 14 of 15 from the floor to open the game.
“Those guys are playing at an extremely high level, and hopefully we can get two more wins,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters after the game.
In Game 1 on Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a 116-98 victory. Heat players Goran Dragic (foot injury) and Bam Adebayo (shoulder and neck) left in the second and third quarters with injuries. Both men missed Game 2.
Game 3 is on Sunday night at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Recipe for success for Los Angeles Lakers
James and Davis became the first Lakers duo since Shaquille O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant in Game 3 of the 2002 Finals (against the New Jersey Nets) to score more than 30 points apiece in the Finals.
LeBron reflected on the dynamic duo of the Lakers dynasty earlier this century after Game 2. He spoke also about how people are comparing him and Davis to Shaq and Kobe.
“You know, obviously being in high school, watching the Kobe-Shaq duo was the most dominant duo that I have personally seen in my life from a basketball perspective,” the Los Angeles Lakers superstar told reporters. “Obviously we knew the force that Shaq brought to the table, but the elegance and force that Kobe played with, as well.
“They were very dominant in what they did on the floor, on both sides of the floor. So to be in the conversation with those two guys … is just very humbling, because I know I grew up watching those guys.”
Lakers coach Vogel praises James, Davis
In analyzing the way the game materialized, Vogel commended the performances of LeBron and Davis.
“Obviously they both have the ability to score against single coverage, so to speak, whatever action you are talking about, but they are both brilliant passers,” the coach commented. “Sometimes they are feeding each other. Sometimes they are destroying their own man, and sometimes they are making the extra pass to the open man. Both have that elite ability to score and to read defense.
“Again, a big reason — those two were huge tonight and a big reason for the win.”
Key to victory
In addition to the overall offensive play of the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest stars, the team shot the ball extremely well from inside the arc.
From late in the opening period until late in the third stanza, Vogel’s crew actually converted 16 straight shots from inside the arc.
The Los Angeles Lakers led 68-54 at halftime, getting their final points of the half on a Rajon Rondo driving layup with 49.3 seconds left.
Just over 5 seconds later, a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer pulled the Heat within 14 to close out the half.
A look at the game statistics
Both teams had five players score in double digits in Game 2 of the Finals at the NBA Bubble.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, in addition to James and Davis, Rondo notched a double-double (16 points, 10 assists), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma finished with 11 apiece.
For the Miami Heat, Jimmy Butler led the way with 25 points along with eight rebounds and 13 assists. Power forward Kelly Olynyk, a Gonzaga University product, chipped in with 24 points and nine boards. Rookie Tyler Herro had 17 points, Kendrick Nunn poured in 13 and Jae Crowder added 12.
Asked about his mindset after the game, Butler responded by saying: “Just make the right basketball play, knowing that I need my guys in order to win the game, I definitely do.
“….Just because we’re in The Finals it’s not going to change.”
The battle inside
Although they scored 46 points in the paint, the Heat gave up 56.
According to Butler, that was a recipe for disaster against LA,
“We didn’t rebound. They were getting all types of offensive rebounds in the paint,” Butler lamented. “We didn’t get back. Same thing as the first game. Eventually we’re going to have to fix it because that’s how we’re going to win.”
Indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers were the stronger rebounding team, grabbing 52 boards (16 offensive). The Miami Heat had 42 (six offensive).
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it remains unclear if Dragic or Adebayo will be cleared to play for Game 3.
“They are warriors and are continuing to try to lobby, but they just need rest, recovery, and treatment and that’s the only course of action right now,” Spoelstra said.
Los Angeles Lakers build insurmountable lead
The Miami Heat pulled within nine points in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get over the hump against the Los Angeles Lakers.
A Kuzma 3-pointer put the Lakers ahead 108-95 with 11:13 left in the final period. Butler responded by hitting two free throws to pull the Heat to within 108-99 with 10:01 remaining.
Los Angeles, which made 16 of 47 3-point attempts, then got a triple from Markief Morris courtesy of a James assist to make it 111-99. Then the Lakers finished the game with a comfortable advantage down the stretch.
Olynyk said it wasn’t a demoralizing defeat, but something his team can build off.
“I think it was just a couple plays,” Olynyk stated. “A couple missed shots, a couple offensive rebounds we gave up. We had it right there on the edge, but we just couldn’t push it over. We can build on that. Come back in Game 3 ready to rock.”