The Miami Heat have played better games. Their swaggering journey through the 2020 postseason hit its first real moment of doubt on Wednesday night, as they opened the NBA Finals with a 116–98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The contest was well out of hand halfway through the third quarter, when they faced an 87–55 deficit. Then, in a moment of perverse cruelty, the NBA made them play the remaining quarter and a half. It was rough. Kelly Olynyk wound up playing 18 minutes.
Sadly for the Heat, the lopsided score wasn’t the worst part of their evening. Every player on the roster (save Kelly Olynyk) seemed to come down with a debilitating injury. Jimmy Butler rolled his ankle at the end of the first half. (He returned to action, though slightly hobbled.) Goran Dragic, who’s been playing like a Slovenian Steve Nash in these playoffs, missed the second half with a foot injury that is apparently quite severe.
And center Bam Adebayo, who gives Miami its only chance at keeping Anthony Davis in check, fell to the floor in the third quarter clutching his arm. He, too, would not return, with what’s being described as a left shoulder sprain.
Any one of those injuries could spell disaster for Miami in the finals, but all three? Well, let’s not think about that right now. In times of trouble, it helps to take stock of the good things. Sure, when the Los Angeles Lakers are dunking all over you, that’s not really an applicable strategy. But we can do the next best thing, which is to consider all the ways Game 1 could have gone worse for Miami.
As the cliché goes, it’s a seven-game series, and this only counts as one loss for Miami. It would be much, much worse, obviously, if it was a three-game series and each loss counted twice. In that case, the series would already be over. Phew!
Also consider rookie Tyler Herro, who helped bury the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and danced the dirt down on their grave. Herro’s magic touch eluded him on Wednesday, as his plus-minus in the first half was a staggering minus-30 in 18 minutes of action. That means the Heat were outscored nearly 2-to-1 every minute he was on the court. Yowza! Nonetheless, it could have been much worse. He could have been a minus-60 in the first half, or even minus-120. Good thing he avoided that mathematical possibility.
And it’s worth noting that the Heat weren’t losing the whole game. They actually started out on the front foot, jumping to a 23–10 lead. Their offense looked crisp, they were rebounding every miss, and their transition play was phenomenal. It was a joy to behold. Then, the Lakers went on a 55–25 run to close out the half. But Miami will always have those first seven minutes. Going forward, if they beat the Lakers by 13 points in each seven-minute segment of action, they’ll win each game by an average of 89 points. Not bad!
As for their matchup on the defensive end, it’s hard to ignore Anthony Davis’ monster night. He put up 34 points on 21 shots. The term “scoring with ease” comes to mind, but, to Miami’s credit, Davis did build up a visible sweat by the third quarter. He even looks a little out of breath here as he screams, “It’s over!” after throwing down an uncontested dunk.
And then there’s this sick reverse slam by LeBron. He did it after the whistle, so it didn’t count.
However, in the interest of full disclosure, this reverse slam did count.
But that’s neither here nor there. Miami can rest easy knowing that LeBron started his leap from inside the 3-point arc, meaning this particular dunk could only be worth two points. See? Things could always be worse.