LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – After the Miami Heat clinched their first NBA 115-104 Finals win on Sunday to take the series to 2-1, the leaders of the Los Angeles Lakers have insisted their resolve remains strong.
“I never feel like we have let our guard down,” said LeBron James after his performance of 25 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists was marred by eight turnovers. “Also, I don’t feel like we are worried. We are not worried. We know we can play much better. We have another opportunity to take dominant command on Tuesday. You like this opportunity.”
Striker Anthony Davis, whose 15-point outing on Sunday was less than half his series average of 33.0 points per game overnight, echoed James̵
“Trust me,” he said. “Everything will be fine.”
The Lakers were far from well in Game 3. They fell as much as 13 points in the first quarter, with their 10 turnovers in the opening frame opening the door to Miami – which lost Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo to injury in Race 1 – to avoid a 0-3 hole and an almost certain disappointment in the championship.
James was the main culprit when L.A. finished with 20 turnovers which led to 21 points in Miami, but Davis committed five himself, as he struggled to find an attacking pace after the Heat changed their primary defensive cover from zone to man. Davis, who went 6 for 9 from the field, only attempted three of those paint shots in Game 3 – the lowest number of paint shots in the playoff career of 6-foot 10 Davis, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.
“They’re really, really good on offense, so you can’t turn the ball against that team,” James said after L.A. was eliminated in every quarter for the first time this season. “I take full responsibility for that.”
Davis’ first quarter statistic of zero points, two fouls and four turnovers was by no means what the Lakers expected of him, with many of his teammates routinely calling him the “best player in the world”. He promptly assumed the blame, along with James.
“I just have to be better,” Davis said. “Both ends of the pitch. Do it wrong, bringing the energy to the team – the team relies on me bringing the energy to start the game, and when you collect two fouls, the boys come first, stuff like that. So I I just have to be better. “
The loss wasted excellent performance on the bench of Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma, who both set their 2020 post-season high score with 19 points each. The Los Angeles bench outperformed his holders 53-51, as the Lakers’ reserves accounted for the second-most points in a finals game since the stat started being tracked in 1970-71, according to data from the ‘Elias Sports Bureau.
They were also both frank about where L.A. will go. from here as he prepares for Game 4 on Tuesday (9pm ET, ABC).
“I love how we respond after losing a game,” Morris said. “We have great leaders. Tomorrow we will watch the movie. There are a lot of people who will get their asses chewed and we will respond better in Race 4.”
Kuzma, who has become an internet fanatic for his irregular play – more than 8,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org demanding that the third year forward shouldn’t receive a ring if L.A. wins the title – exudes nonchalance.
“I honestly don’t care,” he said. “I mean, either you love or hate someone. It doesn’t matter. I mean, you’ll see that this year I dyed my hair blonde. I don’t give a shit. I don’t care. I mean, Twitter is for jokes. I laugh at jokes too. I don’t care at all. “
And he said he doubts the loss will affect the Lakers’ psyche as a whole.
“We are not perfect. Nobody is perfect. You are not a perfect team, you are not a perfect individual. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. The most important thing for us is to put in what we need to do and then do what we have done everything. the year, “he said. “Our message to the team is that we don’t like to lose two in a row. That has been our goal, not for the playoffs, but for the whole season. Obviously, having a bit of a disappointment is great for us. on a high, and for us we have to respond. And I like our possibilities because of who we have in the team. “
Despite the slow start and all the turnovers, L.A. had a 91-89 lead with 8:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. Miami ended things with a 26-13 from there.
“Obviously, we have to do a better job of going down the stretch,” James said. “But I like our fight tonight, even as bad as I think we played.”
Victory should definitely give the Heat some confidence. And Miami could build up even more momentum with the return of Adebayo (neck injury) or Dragic (plantar band torn from left foot) on Tuesday.
Lakers manager Frank Vogel says it didn’t take the first defeat – or a potential imminent return of a key player – for the Heat to have Los Angeles’ full attention.
“We had great respect for this team from the start,” said Vogel. “That hasn’t changed after Game 1, and it hasn’t changed after Game 2. Even with the guys out, we still have great respect, and we have seen in Race 2 what they are capable of in terms of offensive firepower. and a defensive-competitive point of view.
“So they’re going to be a great opponent with those guys or without them.”