LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was not a season. For the Los Angeles Lakers, it was an obstacle course.
It was 12 months packed with tragedies and togetherness. It was disjointed and odd, unprecedented and often unpleasant, an odyssey that began for them in a Chinese hotel amid a geopolitical feud and ended in a mostly empty arena at Walt Disney World, the site of the world’s most famous bubble since the invention of chewing gum.
But for all the disruptive forces that rocked the N.B.A., the Lakers triumphed in the end.
The Lakers won their 17th championship — and their first with LeBron James as their centerpiece — with a victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday night in Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals. A mere 355 days after the Lakers played their season opener before a packed crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles, they toppled the Heat, four games to two, to finish off their playoff run on an elaborate made-for-TV sound stage that lacked spectators, aside from a few of the players’ family members and friends.
Read more about the Lakers’ road to the championship here.
How the Lakers beat the Heat in Game 6:
LeBron set a playoff record.
It’s not the crown he’s after, of course, but LeBron James has moved to No. 1 on the N.B.A.’s career list for most playoff games no matter how Sunday night plays out.
This Game 6 is the 260th playoff game of LeBron’s career, taking him one beyond the longtime former Lakers guard Derek Fisher. The Lakers need one more win for the fourth championship in James’s 10 career trips to the N.B.A. finals.
Goran Dragic is active for the Heat.
Goran Dragic, the Heat guard, has missed the past four games after tearing a ligament in his left foot during Game 1. It’s unclear how much playing time he’ll get, if any, but at the very least, his presence should be a morale boost for Miami.
Alex Caruso is starting for the Lakers.
Entering Game 6, the Lakers are making an adjustment right from the start: Alex Caruso will make his first playoff start in place of Dwight Howard. Howard has struggled on the defensive end for the finals and having Caruso take his place will allow the Lakers to play small from the outset.
The Lakers’ Danny Green said he has received death threats.
Danny Green, the Los Angeles Lakers guard, told reporters on Sunday that he and his fiancée had received death threats following Game 5.
“I’ve gotten so many messages,” Green said. “I can’t even hit the delete all button. I just don’t read them. I know she probably doesn’t get as many, and she doesn’t have as many followers so she probably can see more of it. I had to ask. I said, ‘Are you getting death threats?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, you are too.’”
He continued, “I don’t know, because I don’t really pay attention or care, nor am I shaken or worried about it.”
At the end of Friday’s game, Green missed a wide-open jumper that could have won the game for the Lakers and sent the team to their 17th championship. Green finished the contest with 8 points on 3-of-8 shooting. Several of his teammates had far worse games, but Green was targeted in particular for scorn, especially on social media.
One of the most high-profile Lakers fans angry at Danny Green was Snoop Dogg, who on his Instagram story, posted several expletives directed toward Green.
“I’d give anything to get that shot back again, trust me,” Green said Sunday. “You’re going to make some. You’re going to miss some. It’s part of the game.”
Of the vitriol, Green said: “Fans are emotional. I hope they don’t take it that seriously. I hope that they are that passionate about voting or injustice.”
1st Quarter: Duncan Robinson is back behind the arc.
Miami’s Duncan Robinson got hot from 3-point range in Game 5. He has opened with two 3s so far in the first quarter.
The shots came amid a sloppy start for both teams. The Heat started 3 of 9 from the field and the Lakers began 4 of 10. Anthony Davis already has two turnovers while the Heat have three of their own. With 6:18 left in the first, the Lakers lead, 13-8.
Read more about Robinson’s hot shooting in Game 5:
Jimmy Butler is quiet early.
Jimmy Butler is in survey mode early for Miami. He has taken only one shot from the floor in the game’s first eight-plus minutes, but the Heat are hanging in just fine, trailing only by a point (17-16). The Lakers’ LeBron James, by contrast, has a quick 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists early.
End of 1st Quarter: Lakers lead after sloppy start.
The Lakers started out slowly, but Miami’s turnovers allowed the Lakers to build some momentum, as Los Angeles took a 28-20 lead into the second quarter. LeBron James scored 9 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. Anthony Davis had 8 points and added 3 rebounds, but he also picked up two fouls, which may cause issues as the game progresses.
With 1:09 left in the first, Goran Dragic entered the game for his first action of the finals since Game 1. Miami, which has never led, was 4 of 8 from 3-point land to keep them within striking distance of Los Angeles. The Lakers did most of their damage in the paint, often with James and Davis bulldozing to the rim.
2nd Quarter: Rajon Rondo is making an impact early.
Rajon Rondo’s stay in the N.B.A. bubble began in uncomfortable fashion.
First Rondo authored a viral social media post that likened the players’ hotel accommodation to a Motel 6. Not long after that, Rondo broke his right thumb in a Lakers practice that sidelined him until the second round of the playoffs.
But those are distant memories for Rondo in Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals. He’s off to a 4-for-4 start from the field for a quick 9 points to emerge as the Lakers’ third scorer du jour behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Pretty layup by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Halftime: The Lakers’ lead explodes to 28.
LeBron James responded to the disappointment of the Lakers’ Game 5 defeat with a near-flawless first half in Game 6.
No surprise, then, that the Lakers, fueled by James and a rejuvenated defense, have hiked their lead to a robust 64-36 heading into halftime.
James has 11 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists . An uber-aggressive Rajon Rondo, turning back the clock with a recharged first step, has supplied an unexpected 13 points, including several pretty drives and a 3-pointer while shooting 6-for-6. Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with 15 points.
The Heat have already played nine players, after gutting out Game 5 with just seven, but they look weary. Miami is shooting just 34.2 percent from the floor against the Lakers’ swarming defense, benefiting little from the six minutes Goran Dragic logged in the first half in his first action since sustaining a torn plantar fascia in his left foot in Game 1.
The Lakers’ lead reached 30 points, at 64-34, on consecutive 3-pointers by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who also has 15 points).
3rd Quarter: Anthony Davis is almost out of fouls.
The Lakers: Foes. Friends. Teammates.
When he was on the verge of reaching the 2020 N.B.A. finals, LeBron James offered praise to some of his Los Angeles Lakers teammates who helped bring the team to championship contention.
Rajon Rondo, the backup point guard, capably conducted the team’s offense, James said. Center Dwight Howard provided an interior prowess, he added.
“Dwight was a beast,” James said after the Lakers pinned the Denver Nuggets down, three games to one, in the Western Conference finals. “Dwight brought that physical presence. It was great for our ball club.”
James, facing the Miami Heat in his 10th N.B.A. finals, is on the cusp of capturing a fourth championship. A knock against him, if there is one to make in his transcendent career, is that he has not won more championships, despite being in a position to do so in almost every year of the 2010s.
He doesn’t have to look further than inside his own locker room to spot the roadblocks who stifled his earlier championship efforts with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. Howard and Rondo played vital roles in prematurely ending his postseasons in the Eastern Conference. They join the other current Lakers Danny Green, JaVale McGee and Quinn Cook as those who firmly and successfully opposed James in years past.
Miami is having a bad shooting night (at a bad time).
The Heat have played the Lakers virtually to a draw halfway through the third quarter. Which would be fine, except that Los Angeles entered the second half with a 28-point lead. Miami is shooting a dismal 34 percent from the floor and has just one more assist (12) than turnovers (11). Jimmy Butler looks tired or, rather, like a mere mortal with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
End of 3rd Quarter: The Lakers’ stars are getting help.
The Miami Heat ended the third quarter essentially on life support, as the Lakers entered the final frame with a 87-58 lead. Rajon Rondo continued his hot shooting from outside, hitting multiple 3-pointers. LeBron James (19 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) entered the fourth just one assist shy of yet another playoff triple-double.
The Lakers are getting lots of help from players outside of James and Anthony Davis. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has 17 points and Rondo added 19 points off the bench. The lone bright spot for the Heat has been Bam Adebayo, who has 15 points and 7 rebounds on only 10 shots.
4th Quarter: Miami cuts into the Lakers’ lead.
Filing this under: “So you’re saying there’s a chance.” Bam Adebayo just hit a jumper to cut the Laker lead to 21, 90-69 with 8:37 left. The Heat opened the quarter on an 11-3 run. Against the Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat cut a 20-point lead to 5 in the span of six minutes late in the game. We’re just saying.
Read more about Bam Adebayo: