Whoever came up with the idea that a single play can’t determine the outcome of a game is a damn liar.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel proved that wrong on Wednesday night during the first quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. After Heat forward Jae Crowder hit his second three-pointer in a matter of minutes, Vogel watched as his team trailed 23-10 at the 5:36 mark.
He called timeout. He knew his team needed it.
What he didn’t know is the impact that one decision/play would wind up having.
How much did it matter, you ask?
The Lakers went on a run. And when I say run, I mean it was an avalanche. After Vogel’s timeout, the Lakers outscored the Heat 106-75. It got so bad that the Heat found themselves down 32 points midway through the third quarter, as the Lakers took Game 1, 116-98. The 13-point lead that Miami held in the first quarter almost seems like a myth. Because if you weren’t there to see it, you wouldn’t have believed it happened.
“I don’t think at the beginning we were physical enough. You have to get a feel for how hard Miami plays,” said James. “They smacked us in the mouth, and we got a sense of that. So we knew how hard we had to play if we wanted to make it a game. From that moment, when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities.”
The win means that for only the second time in his 10 trips to the Finals, LeBron James actually has a 1-0 lead. The last time it happened was May 30, 2011, when the LeBron-led Miami Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks 92-84. In that game, James finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in 45 minutes. On Wednesday, James ended up with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in 36 minutes of work.
The fact that James only has a 20 percent winning-percentage in Game 1 of the Finals is a head-scratching stat.
Here’s a look at LeBron’s Game 1 history:
2007: In LeBron’s first Finals game, the Cavs lost 85-76 to the Spurs. He was held to 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The Cavs were swept 4-0 in that series.
2011: The Heat won 92-84. They lost that series in six.
2012: Miami fell 105-94 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. James scored 30 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists on the road as the Heat won that series in five.
2013: The Heat blew Game 1 at home to the Spurs 92-88. LeBron had a stat line of 18-10-18. Miami went on to win that epic series in seven games.
2014: The Spurs handed Miami a 15-point loss in Game 1 that year, as they won 110-95. James had 25, six and three that night, as the Spurs got their revenge and won the series in five.
2015: James almost had a Game 1 victory that year, but a late-game injury to Kyrie Irving that wound up keeping him out the rest of the series was too much to overcome. The Cavs fell 108-100 to the Warriors in overtime, as James went for 44, eight and six. Cleveland lost that series in six.
2016: The 73-9 Warriors gave the Cavs a 15-point loss in Game 1 that year. James flirted with a triple-double as he had 12 rebounds and nine assists to go with his 23 points. The Warriors went on to blow a 3-1 lead to the Cavs, as James and Irving did the unthinkable: Delivering the city of Cleveland its first championship since 1964.
2017: With Kevin Durant on their roster, the Warriors were seeking revenge as they beat the Cavs 113-91 in the opening game of that series. James did his part with 28, 15 and eight. Golden State took care of the Cavs with a “Gentleman’s Sweep” in five games.
2018: This was the infamous J.R. Smith game that gave us one of the greatest memes, ever. It was also one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history. James finished with 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Cavs fell 124-114 to the Warriors in overtime. Three games later the series was over.
2020: I already told you what happened.
Now, all of the attention turns to Friday night for Game 2 as James will try to accomplish something he’s never done in the NBA Finals: Go up 2-0.
“The job is not done. We’re not satisfied with winning one game,” James explained. “It’s that simple.”
Back in 2011, James and the Heat were on their way to a 2-0 lead when everything fell apart. Dwyane Wade pissed off the Mavericks after he posed in front of their bench after hitting a three that gave the Heat a 15-point lead with 7:14 on the clock. Dallas went on a 22-5 run. Dirk Nowitzki hit a game-winning layup on Chris Bosh, and the Heat were never the same as they lost the series in six.
James mentioned that game on Wednesday night.
“That sh*t burns me till this day,” he said.
Game 2 will definitely be a good one.