(Reuters) – Heavy favorites Los Angeles Lakers dismantled the Miami Heat 116-98 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, as their opponent struggled with injuries after making a fast start.
The Heat got a 13-point leg up in the first quarter but the lead was shortlived, as the Lakers drained 11 three-pointers to complete a 30-point turnaround and close out the first half, while Miami’s defense crumbled inside the NBA’s quarantined Orlando, Florida, campus.
The Lakers kept the pressure up as two of the Heat’s biggest playmakers – point guard Goran Dragic and forward Bam Adebayo – exited the game with injuries.
Dragic, Miami’s leading scorer in the post-season, suffered a foot injury in the second quarter, while Adebayo left in the third with a shoulder strain after twice colliding with Lakers center Dwight Howard.
“We came out slow,” said Lakers forward Anthony Davis, the night’s leading scorer with 34 points. “(If)we want to win this series and become champions we have to play better from the start.”
Sixteen-time All-Star LeBron James, competing in his 50th NBA Finals game, scored 25 points with 13 rebounds and nine assists.
The Heat’s All-Star forward Jimmy Butler rolled his ankle and fell to the ground grabbing his left leg with seconds left on the clock in the second quarter and was seen limping on the court afterward, but managed to finish the game, putting up 23 points.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama, 15-time All-Star Shaquille O’Neal and legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar were spotted among the game’s virtual fans in the otherwise empty stands in the biosecure “bubble” at Walt Disney World, where players have been living and competing – isolated from the outside world – since July.
The evening’s event was laced with activism, as players warmed up prior to the game in t-shirts that read “VOTE” and Obama used the opportunity – from his virtual seat – to thank a group of first-time poll workers who signed up to work on the United States’ Nov. 3 election day.
“I appreciate you and hopefully all NBA fans will appreciate you when they see those shorter lines at the polling places,” Obama said in a video posted to his Twitter account.
Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters Wednesday that he was initially resistant to the idea of the quarantine, which required “extraordinary sacrifices by everyone involved” but was largely a success, with no positive COVID-19 cases among players.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)