3 Things to Know 20201004

Lakers vs. Heat, Finals Game 3: Three Things to Know (10/4/20)

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers are halfway towards their ultimate goal of securing the franchise’s 17th championship after beating Miami 124-114 in Game 2 of the Finals. Here are three things to know ahead of Sunday’s Game 3:

LEBRON + AD MIRROR KOBE + SHAQ
As Shaquille O’Neal likes to say, he and Kobe Bryant are the most dominant duo in NBA history. A good example came in Game 3 of the 2002 Finals, when Kobe hit 14 of 23 field goals for 36 points, and Shaq 12 of 19 for 35 in L.A.’s win over the Nets.

LeBron James was a junior in high school at the time, a year away from being drafted No. 1 overall by Cleveland. Anthony Davis was just nine years old.

But on Friday, Davis and LeBron became the first Lakers teammates since Kobe and Shaq to combine for 60+ points in a Finals game. Their numbers weren’t far off, either, as LeBron hit 14 of 25 shots for 33 points, and AD 15 of 20 for 32. It was actually the 21st time this season the duo went for 60+, and the Lakers are 20-1 (.952) in such games, tying Kobe and Shaq for highest winning percentage among teammates that hit 60 in at least 15 games. I asked LeBron about it after Game 2.

“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,” said LeBron. “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 … I grew up admiring Kobe; obviously, a kid coming straight out of high school … It's very humbling that we can be even mentioned with those greats.

"Those two guys are obviously special," said Davis. "They are a duo that's special together. They are the best duo we've seen. Multiple championships. They both were so dominant. I know they had a little sit-down and they were talking about they were arguing because they both wanted to be so dominant, they both wanted to be great and they both wanted to win, and that's why they jelled together outside of everything else that you might have heard that they were going through."

Miami’s issue is no different from that of the Western Conference opponents for L.A.; nobody has had a solution for the pair of Lakers All-Stars.

Getting Bam Adebayo back for Game 3 would at least help, but there’s been no update on his availability just yet.

LAKERS DEFENSE GOOD ENOUGH … BUT NOT GREAT
In his walkoff interview on Spectrum SportsNet, AD wasn’t exactly thrilled with the way the game went, despite his squad being in full control, and up double digits for most of the game: “I don’t like how we played towards the end,” he said. “We have to be better if we’re going to put this team away.”

LeBron echoed that point.

Myself, Coach (Vogel) and AD were not happy with our defensive presence tonight,” he added. “We know we can be a lot better and we're just, myself and AD, we're not satisfied with just the win. We want to be great. We want to be great, as close to 48 minutes as possible.

Perhaps there’s a human nature element when it comes to defense, even at the highest level, when players know they can get whatever they want on the other end of the floor. Even if it’s subconscious, there can be a slight let up on defense for a team with an offensive rating of 136, one that came despite a bunch of wide-open misses from three.

One area in particular that Vogel didn’t like was how many times the Lakers committed fouls and put Miami at the charity stripe. After a terrific Game 1 from that perspective kept the Heat to only 14 attempts, Game 2 saw Miami attempt 34, making 31 (91.2 percent). Jimmy Butler’s 12 attempts led the way, while Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn each went 6 for 6.

Nonetheless, the Lakers got plenty of stops when needed, and Miami got within 10 points for a total of only 30 seconds in the second half.

WORKING MIAMI’S ZONE DEFENSE
To start Game 2, Miami was in a traditional man-to-man defense. They soon found themselves down 14-8 into the first time out, after LeBron, AD and fellow former No. 1 overall pick Dwight Howard – three of the greatest athletes in the world – were just manhandling the shorthanded Heat inside. Howard was already 3 for 3 by that point, and it was clear that Miami just couldn’t hold up in man-to-man with Herro, Robinson and Meyers Leonard all struggling.

Out of the time out, Heat coach Eric Spoelstra went to the zone defense that’s worked for Miami in spots of their Eastern Conference run. Almost immediately, the Lakers found themselves being encouraged to take wide open 3’s. And that they did. They didn’t shoot a great percentage by hitting 16 of 47 (34.0 percent), but the volume was such that it didn’t really matter. Meanwhile, they still managed to get into the paint, whether in transition (nine fastbreak points to Miami’s two) or, most often, on the offensive glass. Davis alone grabbed eight offensive rebounds, and L.A. outscored Miami 17-10 in second chance points through three quarters, and 21-14 overall.

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Vogel was pleased with the looks his offense created.

“We know the spacing that we want to get to and a few different alignments,” he said of Miami’s zome. “Obviously a lot of teams don't have 10, 15, 20 different zone offensive plays like they do with man-to-man. But there's a few different alignments we want to get to out of the zone that we feel are favorable to the offense. ‘Do [Rondo] and ‘Bron and our whole group has a great ability to communicate where the holes are, what they are looking for and work together in those types of things.

“We want to put play-makers in the middle,” Vogel continued. “If we can get the ball there and suck the defenders in, it opens up the perimeter. It opens up the rim. Obviously you want great decision-makers in there. Bron, AD, Rondo, all those guys being in that spot benefits our offense.”

In short, Miami struggled to stop the Lakers no matter what their alignment was. We’ll see if there’s another adjustment from Coach Spo ahead of Game 3.

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