For five games these NBA Finals had been a grind, exactly the way the gritty Heat wanted it. Miami contested every inch of the court against a more talented Lakers team.
Sunday, that talent overwhelmed Miami.
The 2020 Lakers played like Showtime Lakers — defensive stops becoming fast break points and shots at the rim (but now with a few more threes sprinkled in). LeBron James cemented a place in Laker lore by looking like Magic Johnson for a game, getting teammates involved, and still scoring (plus LeBron had some James Worthy-level finishes).
What started as an NBA Finals game became a coronation — of the Lakers as champions, and of LeBron James, who becomes the first player ever to win titles as the best player on three different franchises. He now has a serious case to be considered the G.O.A.T.
For the fourth time, LeBron was named Finals MVP. Sunday he had his 11th Finals triple-double with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. He was brilliant.
Behind LeBron, the Lakers won 106-93 to lock down the 2020 NBA championship, beating the Heat 4-2.
“I will bring back the trophy to Los Angeles, where it belongs,” Laker governor Jeanie Buss said when presented the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
It is the 17th championship for Los Angeles, tying Boston for the most in league history. It was LeBron’s fourth ring with his third different team.
This game was the culmination of the strangest of NBA seasons, one interrupted by the coronavirus and ending in a bubble in Orlando. Maybe the most amazing thing about all of this is that the NBA pulled it off — not one player, team staff member, or media member tested positive in the bubble (some of the Disney employees who helped support the bubble, people who went to their homes at night, did get the disease). It was a model of how wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and testing can help limit the disease’s spread.
Somehow it’s fitting that this season ended in a game that didn’t feel like any other game this series.
Los Angeles came out playing intense, focused defense. LeBron and Danny Green were getting into the body of Jimmy Butler, forcing him left (he prefers to drive right) and trapping him when Butler did go right. LeBron took it upon himself to make sure Butler — who was sensational in the Heat’s two wins in this series — would not beat the Lakers again.
Butler also looked like his legs were dead, having never fully recovered from his 47-minutes all-out effort in Game 5. He finished with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.
Without Butler creating shots the Heat offense stalled, plus they missed some shots right at the rim and a couple of wide-open threes early.
The Lakers took those shots and ran, and even in the half-court LeBron was playing downhill and attacking the rim — 18 of the Lakers first 28 points came in the paint. The Lakers started the game 11-of-11 in shots at the rim. Los Angeles has thrived all season by getting into the paint, and they finished with 52 in this game. When that happens, Los Angeles is almost impossible to beat.
The Lakers led 28-20 after one quarter but turned the game into a rout in the second quarter, taking the quarter 36-16. The Lakers held the Heat to 30.7% shooting, including 1-of-7 from three, in the quarter.
The Lakers led by 30 at one point in the second, by 28 at halftime, and the second half felt like an obligation to get through.
Anthony Davis finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo came off the bench and shot 8-of-11 to finish with 19 points. Every move coach Frank Vogel made — such as starting Alex Caruso over Dwight Howard — worked.
Miami showed some fight and cut the lead down to 21 at one point, and they made the score respectable in garbage time, but the outcome of this game was never in doubt.
In the end, Miami just didn’t have the energy to match the Lakers’ talent once again — and when LeBron is playing like a legend, it may not have mattered anyway. The good people of Miami have seen him do that before.