The Los Angeles Lakers will get a second opportunity to win a record-equaling 17th championship Sunday when they face the Miami Heat, after being forced into a sixth game of the NBA Finals.
“We’ll have a better performance in Game 6,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after Friday’s 111-108 loss that cut their lead to three games to two.
Both teams made 24 2-point baskets and 14 3-point baskets Friday. The difference was at the free-throw line where Miami made 21 of 22 free throws, with Jimmy Butler going 12-for-12 en route to 35 points, while the Lakers made 18 of 21, with Anthony Davis going eight-for-eight.
Despite the loss, history remains on the Lakers side. Of the 35 previous teams to take 3-1 leads in the finals, only the 2016 Golden State Warriors failed to win the title, losing to the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.
James will set the NBA record for most playoff games, 260, on Sunday, breaking a tie with former Lakers guard Derek Fisher.
Game 7, if necessary, would be played Tuesday. The entire NBA playoffs are being played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lakers reached the finals after missing the playoffs for a franchise-record six consecutive seasons. They had missed the playoffs five times in their 65 seasons preceding the streak.
Of the 13 players in uniform for the Lakers on Friday, six were with the team in the 2018-19 season, when it was 37-45. James missed 27 games last season, 24 because of a groin injury and three to “load management.”
This is Vogel’s first season as the Lakers coach. The team and then-coach Luke Walton “mutually agreed to part ways” April 12, 2019, three days after the season ended.
The Boston Celtics have had sole possession of the lead in championships since 1962 when they won their sixth, their fourth in a run of eight consecutive titles. They won they 17th and most recent title in 2008 when they defeated the Lakers in six games.
The Lakers are credited with the first of their 16 NBA championships for their 1949 Basketball Association of America title, their first season in the league. The league merged with the National Basketball League later in 1949 to create the NBA.
The NBA incorporates titles and statistics from the BAA’s three seasons in its records, but not the NBL’s. The Lakers had won the 1948 NBL title.
The Lakers also won championships in 1950 and from 1952-54. They didn’t win another until 1972, losing each of their next eight finals appearances, including four in seven games. Seven of the Lakers’ finals losses during that stretch were against the Celtics.
The Lakers won their next championship in 1980, Magic Johnson’s rookie season and Jerry Buss’ first as owner. They added four more championships in the 1980s — 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed to lead Phil Jackson-coached teams to titles from 2000-02. Bryant and Pau Gasol led the Lakers to championships in 2009 and 2010, defeating Boston in seven games to win the most recent one.