The Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a 116-98 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night to take a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James dominated in every facet of the game, coming up just one assist shy of a triple-double.
However, it was his leadership off the court that proved to be just as valuable as his production on it.
The Lakers, many of whom have not made it this far in the playoffs, began behaving in a way that belied their lack of postseason experience.
With the game winding down and the Lakers comfortably ahead, Dwight Howard and the Lakers bench made silly gestures at each other during a timeout.
Anthony Davis turned to the families and friends in attendance and told them “It’s over!”
James, sensing a feeling of complacency, reminded his teammates of the bigger picture.
“Hey, hey! Stop it! Stay locked in!” he yelled. “This s— ain’t over, man.”
While the Lakers managed to maintain a large margin through the final buzzer, James’ veteran presence prevented any semblance of a Miami comeback.
James’ Postgame Response
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 1, 2020
After the game, James was asked what spurred his frustration with his teammates.
“The best teacher in life is experience,” he said. “I’ve experienced moments in my career where you have all the momentum in the world, and you felt like you had the game under control, and one play here or one play there could change the course of a series or change the course of a game.”
As someone making his 10th Finals appearance, James recalled his first-hand experience of just how quickly the tides can change in the championship round.
“One in particular that always rings home for me is Game 2 of the 2011 Finals in Miami vs. Dallas,” James said. “[Dwyane Wade] hits a three right by their bench. I believe it put us up either 13 or 17. From that moment on, Dallas went on a hell of a run and finished it off with a Dirk Nowitzki left-hand layup to steal that game. That s— burns me to this day. I always talk about the best teacher in life is experience, and I’ve experienced a lot. That’s what prompts me to be who I am today, is being able to have those experiences.”
With a 3-6 record in the Finals looming over his legacy, James can ill afford to take this opportunity for granted.
James and Frank Vogel on the Same Page
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel shared a similar mindset with his star when it came to their Game 1 victory.
“We know that this is just one win,” Vogel said. “We are happy that we got one win, but obviously we have to keep our foot on the gas.”
In a media session on Thursday, James reiterated his coach’s words and looked to stay prepared for the next game.
“We’re playing against an exceptional basketball team, obviously, great coached,” James said. “So we have to continue to understand that coming into Game 2. It was great to get with the guys today earlier and go over the film, and like I said, see things that we can do a lot better, both offensively and defensively. They’re going to make adjustments in Game 2, and we need to be ready for that.”
Though the Heat lost some key players in Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic to injury, they remain a formidable opponent.
Miami is a disciplined team with a deep roster and can continue to challenge the Lakers should they play short-handed.
Regardless, the Lakers will look to take another step towards their 17th title starting ith Game 2 on Friday night.