The Los Angeles Lakers won their record-equaling 17th championship with a 106-93 victory over the Miami Heat Sunday evening in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
LeBron James was selected as the recipient of the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. The Laker forward had his lone triple double of the finals Sunday, with 28 points, a game-high 10 assists and 14 rebounds, one short of Anthony Davis’ 14.
The Lakers never trailed. The score was tied three times — 2-2, 8-8 and 13-13. The Lakers led 28-20 at the end of the first quarter, 64-36 at halftime and 87-58 entering the fourth quarter. They held their biggest lead, 82-46, with three minutes, 29 seconds left in the third quarter.
Davis and Rajon Rondo each added 19 for the Lakers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 17 and Danny Green 11.
The victory came two nights after the Lakers 111-108 loss in Game 5.
“Losing a game in the NBA Finals is one of the worst experiences of my life,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I think our group collectively felt that way, and the challenge was to channel that into effort and focus and energy and enthusiasm, positive energy, into the next game.
“I put a challenge on our group to be a team that’s going to respond to losses all throughout the season, try to never lose two games in a row. That applied to all of these playoff series. We wanted to channel that, whatever you want to call it, the misery of losing the game, into the next game.
“Boy, did we ever tonight.”
The Lakers never lost two games in a row during the playoffs, which were played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lakers had three multiple-loss streaks during the regular season — losing four consecutive games from Dec. 17-25, back-to-back games Jan. 25 and Jan. 31, which included their first game after the death of Laker legend Kobe Bryant, and three consecutive losses in August after they were assured of having the Western Conference’s best record.
Bam Adebayo led four Heat players in double figures with 25 points.
This is the fourth time James has received the finals MVP award. He won it the other three times as a member of a championship team — in 2012 and 2013 with Miami and 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Only Michael Jordan has been selected for the award more, receiving it after all six of the Chicago Bulls championships in the 1990s.
The award has been presented annually since 1969, coincidentally when Russell won the last of his 11 championships. Laker legend Jerry West received it that year, the only time a player from the losing team has received it.
Vogel called James “the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen.”
“If you think you know, you don’t know … until you’re around him every day, you’re coaching him, you’re seeing his mind, you’re seeing his adjustments, seeing the way he leads the group. You think you know. You don’t know.
“It’s just been a remarkable experience coaching him and seeing him take this group that was not in the playoffs last year, the roster was put together … overnight and just taking a group and leading us to the promised land, so they say.
“He was terrific the entire season leading us, and I can’t say enough about him.”
The championship is the Lakers first since 2010 and comes after they missed the playoffs for a franchise-record six consecutive seasons. They had missed the playoffs five times in their 65 seasons preceding the streak.
The Boston Celtics 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 their most recent title in 2008, when they defeated the Lakers in six games.
The Lakers are credited with the first of their 17 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 in 2010.