The Los Angeles Lakers will try Friday evening to move to within two victories of their first NBA championship since 2010 when they face a Miami Heat team without two customary starters.
Point guard Goran Dragic and center Bam Adebayo will not play in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Dragic tore the plantar fascia ligament in his left foot in the second quarter of Wednesday’s 116-98 loss in Game 1.
An MRI revealed Adebayo has a neck strain on his left side, the Heat announced Thursday.
“These 2 guys are really amazing… they were both lobbying to play,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said in a pregame interview Friday. “We ultimately had to take the decision out of their hands.”
Dragic is the Heat’s second-leading scorer in the playoffs, averaging 19.9 points, while Adebayo is third, averaging 17.8, and leading rebounder, pulling down 10.9 points per game.
“We’re still expecting to win,” Miami forward Jimmy Butler said after Wednesday’s game. “We still know that we can.”
Meyers Leonard started at center in place of Adebayo. His only previous appearance of the 2020 playoffs was an eight-minute, 51-second stint in a 115-100 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sept. 4.
Rookie Tyler Herro started at point guard, becoming the youngest player start a finals game at 20 years, 256 days old, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Heat’s starting lineup of Leonard, Herro, Butler, Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder played two minutes together all season before Friday, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Lakers “are going to have to win Game 2 differently than we did Game 1,” coach Frank Vogel said, without elaborating.
The Lakers outscored Miami, 75-30, over a 21:40 span from the first through third quarters in Game 1, turning a 25-12 deficit with 4:21 left in the first quarter to a 87-55 lead with 6:04 remaining in the third.
“We have that ability to explode,” Vogel said. “We’ve shown that throughout the course of the season. What I liked about it is that we did it mostly with defense and half-court offense. We’re really moving the basketball well.”
The Lakers had several milestones in Game 1. They led 65-48 at halftime, the first team to overcome a first-half double-digit deficit to lead by double digits at halftime of an NBA Finals game during the play-by-play era, which began in 1997.
The Lakers made 15 3-point baskets, their most in an NBA Finals game. The previous high was 12 in the fifth and final game of the 2001 finals.
“They imposed their will and they were the tougher team,” said Butler, the Heat’s leading scorer in the playoffs, averaging 20.8 points per game. “They played the style of basketball that they wanted to play. We got away from our type of basketball, and I think it definitely played into their hands.”
Teams that win Game 1 of the NBA Finals have gone on to win the series 52 of 73 times, 71.2%. Teams winning the first two games have won 30 of 34 times, 88.2%.
The Lakers will wear their “Black Mamba” jerseys in Game 2, which like the entire NBA postseason will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They would also wear them if a seventh game is necessary. The Lakers are 3-0 in the playoffs wearing the uniforms designed in part by the franchise’s late legend Kobe Bryant.
“While we wanted to embody what he stood for and represent his memory all throughout the year, we want to do that more so now than ever,” Vogel said.
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