Lakers crush Miami Heat to capture 17th NBA title

ORLANDO (AFP) – The Los Angeles Lakers, fuelled by superstar LeBron James’ triple-double, dominated the Miami Heat 106-93 yesterday to win a record-equalling 17th NBA championship but their first in a decade.

James added another chapter to an epic career, delivering 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists as he captured his fourth NBA title with a third team.

He earned NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours for a fourth time, and said the accomplishment had a special flavour with the Lakers.

“This is a historic franchise and to be a part of this is something that I’ll be able to talk about and my grandkids and kids will be able to talk about – their pawpaw played for the Los Angeles Lakers,” James said.

“It’s like playing for the Yankees and winning or playing for the Cowboys and winning a Super Bowl, or the Patriots. It’s like playing for the Red Sox.”

James said the magnitude of what he was trying to accomplish with the Lakers kept his mind focussed in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

The Los Angeles Lakers pose for a team photo with the trophy after winning the 2020 NBA Championship at AdventHealth Arena in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. PHOTO: AFP

“To be able to win with a historical franchise is something that, no matter if your mind wavers away, you can always remember what you’re doing it for,” said James, recalling that he told Lakers President Jeanie Buss when he arrived in Los Angeles in 2018 that he “wanted to put this franchise back where it belongs”.

Anthony Davis, playing in his first title series after years of frustration in New Orleans, added 19 points and 15 rebounds as the Lakers completed a four-games-to-two triumph more than eight months after the helicopter crash that killed team legend Kobe Bryant, who had led the Lakers to their last title in 2010.

The series in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida, capped not only an emotional season for the Lakers with the loss of talisman Bryant but a season of uncertainty and upheaval for the NBA as players grappled with the coronavirus pandemic and the demands for social and racial justice sweeping across the United States (US).

The Lakers out-hustled, out-muscled and out-played Miami, making sure it wouldn’t come down to any last-gasp effort as it did when Los Angeles were denied in Game 5 last Friday.

Los Angeles had blew Game 6 open by halftime, their 36 second-quarter points equalling the Heat’s entire first half total as the Lakers took a 64-36 lead into the break with four players already scoring in double figures.

Rajon Rondo was a perfect six-for-six from the floor in the first half as the Lakers built the second-largest halftime lead in NBA Finals history.

Rondo, who won a title with the Celtics in 2008, scored 19 points off the bench. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 17, Danny Green scored 11 and the Lakers pulled level with the Boston Celtics for most titles all-time.

The Heat, who had stunned the Lakers last Friday on the back of Jimmy Butler’s gritty triple-double, couldn’t produce another miracle in the face of Los Angeles’ stifling defence.

Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 25 points and 10 rebounds and Butler and Jae Crowder added 12 apiece, but Miami simply had no answer for the knockout blow Los Angeles delivered in the first half.

James played his 260th playoff game – surpassing Derek Fisher for the most all time.

He had signalled the Lakers’ determination with nine first-quarter points.

The Lakers were devastating in transition, none more so than James, who went coast-to-coast for a basket at the rim with 6:21 left in the opening period that boosted the Lakers’ lead to 18-3 and brought the bench to its feet.

James said one of the great satisfactions of the victory was helping Davis gain a title.

“I know what it feels like to have seven years where you feel like you can’t get over the hump,” said James.

“To be able to get him and we push him and let him know how great he is, that’s what it’s all about.”