Here’s a number you’ll likely hear if you catch any of tonight’s telecast: 71.2. Specifically, the team that wins Game 1 of the NBA finals has gone on to win the championship 71.2% of the time (or 52 times out of 73). Sure, that’s not always the case, but history shows that drawing first blood is important.
A bit more background: the Heat and Lakers met two times this regular season with LA winning both of those matchups. The Heat are 27-37 all-time against the Lakers during the regular season, including 18-14 in home games and 9-23 in road games. Tonight’s game will mark their first ever meeting in the postseason.
The teams’ first ever meeting came back during Miami’s inaugural season in November 1988, when the Lakers cruised to a 138-91 victory behind Magic Johnson (11 points, 17 assists) and Orlando Woolridge (a game-high 22 points off the bench). The defeat came amid the Heat’s franchise-opening 17-game losing streak, a skid they finally ended a couple weeks later with a 89-88 win over – you guessed it – the Clippers.
Hello and welcome to Game 1 of the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. This might have seemed like something of an improbable matchup at the end of last season after both of these teams finished 10th in their respective conferences, making this the first NBA finals ever to feature two teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs the previous year. But Miami added Jimmy Butler and Los Angeles acquired LeBron James and Anthony Davis and, well, here they are: the last two teams standing in the NBA’s Walt Disney World bubble.
Surely the Heat are the unlikelier of the pair: the first No 5 seed to reach the finals since the current playoff format was implemented in 1984. But both teams have surged to the championship round with relative ease, going 12-3 along the way.
Tip-off is about 40 minutes away. Here’s a quick look at some of the key narratives by the numbers.
- 4 – Miami are seeking their fourth NBA championship
- 5 – There are a combined five international players on NBA finals rosters: Kyle Alexander (Miami; Canada), Kostas Antetokounmpo (LA Lakers; Greece; BWB Africa 2015), Goran Dragić (Miami; Slovenia), Kelly Olynyk (Miami; Canada; BWB Americas 2009), Chris Silva (Miami; Gabon)
- 10 – LeBron James will play in his 10th NBA finals, joining Bill Russell (12), Sam Jones (11) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (10) as the only players with 10 or more appearances
- 17 – The Lakers are trying to win their 17th NBA championship, which would tie the Boston Celtics for the most in league history.
- 29.6 – The Lakers’ Anthony Davis is averaging 29.6 points in his playoff career. Only two players have a higher playoff scoring average (minimum 25 games): Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg) and Allen Iverson (29.7 ppg)
- 2000 – Miami rookie Tyler Herro will be the first player born in the 2000s to play in the NBA finals
Bryan will be here shortly, in the meantime here’s how our writers see the series going:
The winner will be …
The Lakers in five. Even assuming that the Heat find a way to win Game 1, that will just end up making the Lakers angry. Watch for LA to win Game 2 wire-to-wire, and then take control of the series from there. The Heat will have at least one more game where they have a second-half lead, just to set things up for LeBron to have one of his Trademark LeBron Games. Game 5 ends up an anticlimactic blowout. Hunter Felt
The Lakers in six. Butler and the Heat have the chemistry and defensive tenacity to give LA a bigger headache than expected, but the Lakers’ class behind the two best players on the floor, girded by the support of Rondo, Caruso and KCP, will win out. Bryan Graham
The Heat in six? Their best player gives LeBron fits, their coach is one of the sharpest minds in the game and criminally underrated, and their roster is full of guys who feel overlooked or slighted for one reason or another. What’s more, they’ve got the added luxury of Pat Riley for an extra brain to pick. In a year where up is left, this feels about right. Andrew Lawrence