Lakers, LeBron James win NBA championship

Los Angeles defeated Miami, 106-93, in Game 6 on Sunday, outlasting the plucky underdogs to claim the 17th championship in franchise history. James secured the fourth title of his illustrious career, leading a third team to the crown after previously winning with the Heat in 2012 and 2013 and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. The 35-year-old forward, who finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, became just the second player in NBA history to win four Finals MVP awards, joining Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan, who won six.

The victory set off raucous celebrations at the AdventHealth Arena in the bubble at Disney World, where players have lived for more than three months as the NBA completed its regular season and held its postseason in a restricted environment amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Our ballclub got here July 9th,” James said. “It’s October 11th now. This was very challenging and difficult. It played with your mind. It played with your body. You’re away from some of the things that you’re so accustomed to to make you be the professional that you are. I heard some rumblings from people that are not in the bubble, ‘Oh, you don’t have to travel.’ Whatever. People just doubting what goes on in here. This Lakers, LeBron James win NBA championship right up there with one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve had.”

James sprayed reporters with champagne, chomped on a cigar as he called his children and mother, Gloria, on FaceTime and went through a lengthy procession of post-game interviews.

“There’s nothing that can stop me,” James told his mother while lying on his back in the arena concourse, drenched in champagne. “This s— right here is nothing compared to the s— you had to go through. God is good. I hope I continue to make you proud, mom.”

Some stories are more complicated than others, and Game 6’s was simple: The Heat simply ran out of gas after a valiant performance in Game 5. Miami shot just 13 for 38 (34.2 percent) in the first half as Los Angeles’s defense flew around the court and prevented clean looks from beyond the arc. The Lakers held an insurmountable 64-36 lead entering the break, and their small fan section, composed of wives, girlfriends and children, spent most of the second half cheering expectantly.

The Lakers’ closeout win, which sealed a 16-5 run through the playoffs, was aided by a starting lineup change. Coach Frank Vogel electing to start guard Alex Caruso in place of center Dwight Howard, who scored just two points in 15 minutes in Game 5. Caruso started just two games all season, but his insertion provided cleaner matchups with the Heat’s starting lineup, which features four perimeter players and center Bam Adebayo. Although the Lakers used this lineup for just 12 total minutes in the playoffs entering Sunday, the versatile and hard-nosed group overwhelmed the Heat with its collective speed and discipline.

Butler, so sensational in Games 3 and 5, couldn’t muster the same furious attacks that had keyed Miami’s wins and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. After hitting all 12 of his free throws in Game 5, he missed two in the first half — a sure sign of his fatigue. Adebayo, a major source of offense in the Eastern Conference finals, never got on track after suffering a neck injury in Game 1. Duncan Robinson, who hit seven three-pointers in Game 5, was held to six points in the first half as the Lakers tightened up their perimeter defense.

The Heat activated Goran Dragic for the first time since he left Game 1 with a plantar tear. The 34-year-old point guard had tested his foot earlier in the series but hadn’t been cleared medically until Sunday. While his return seemed bound to provide a morale boost, he scored just two points in six minutes off the bench in the first half.

Instead, the contest’s second-unit difference-maker was Rajon Rondo, who scored 13 points in the first half. The Heat seemed willing to turn the pass-first Rondo into a scorer, and he responded with sharp drives to the hoop and a confident three-pointer when left open.

As the Lakers clicked on all cylinders, their confidence grew. The Heat, limited by injuries and exhausted after playing from behind all series, had nowhere left to turn.

The second-half action was academic. Davis pounded away inside, finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds to secure his first ring.

“With about 25 seconds left, that feeling just turned into reality,” Davis said. “I was 25 seconds from becoming a champion. T journey that I’ve been on, my team has been on, the organization has been on, it all came just full circle with this championship. I just got real emotional. It’s just part of your legacy to say you’re a champion. Not everybody can say that. It just puts a bigger target on your back, honestly. Teams are going to come after you next year, especially when you’re one of the top players. Guys want to take out the champion.”

The Lakers did not let the Heat get within double digits in the second half, and the confetti machines, which were left unused Friday after the Heat eked out a narrow win, sprayed purple and yellow all over the court.

After Lakers owner Jeanie Buss accepted the Larry O’Brien trophy from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, James danced at center court clutching the championship trophy and his Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy in his arms.

“I have always believed in LeBron James,” said Vogel, after overseeing his first championship team. “He’s the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen.”

More than a year after they assembled for media day and more than three months after they arrived at the Disney World bubble, the Lakers finished the job.

For General Manager Rob Pelinka, the championship validated two years of roster-building since James’s arrival in 2018 and it stood as a tribute to Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who died tragically in a helicopter crash in January.

“Kobe and Gianna have guided this team the entire year,” Pelinka said. “Kobe’s voice is always in my head. Every day. Every minute. Winning this championship doesn’t take away the sting of the loss, but what it does is it helps us add to their legacy. Kobe and Gianna’s legacy will last forever. It will impact lives around the world in positive ways. The moment couldn’t be any more special to do that for them.”

Find highlights from Game 6 …

October 11, 2020 at 9:55 PM EDT

LeBron James eyeing fourth Finals MVP

By Kareem Copeland

Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James is inching closer to putting another milestone on his Hall of Fame resume, which will surely fan the flames of the Greatest Ever conversation.

James is poised to win his fourth Finals MVP, which would surpass Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan holds the record with six.

Unlike Jordan, James’s MVPs will have come with three different organizations as he plays in his 10th NBA Finals. James played in eight straight Finals between his stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. Hall of Fame Celtics center Bill Russell holds the record with 12 Finals appearances.

James entered Sunday’s game averaging 30.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists in the Finals. He’s averaged 27.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists in the 2020 playoffs.

James now has a record 11 career triple doubles in the NBA Finals.

October 11, 2020 at 9:39 PM EDT

End of third quarter: Lakers lead Heat 87-58

By Kareem Copeland

The Los Angeles Lakers have blown the Heat off the court and there doesn’t seem to be a final rally in Miami. The Lakers lead 87-58 after three quarters and are 12 minutes from winning the 17th championship in franchise history.

The Lakers continue to rip the nets with a 52.9 shooting percentage as LeBron James leads the way with 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have combined for 36 points on 14 for 21 shooting.

The Heat has shot a paltry 36.2 percent from the floor as the Lakers defense has blanketed shooters throughout the night.

October 11, 2020 at 9:21 PM EDT

Lakers cruising

By Kareem Copeland

The Miami Heat needed to come out of halftime playing with a frenzied sense of urgency after trailing by 28 at halftime. That hasn’t happened.

The Lakers continue to roll over the Heat and now lead 71-41. The defense remains stifling with Anthony Davis clogging the paint. LeBron James has been all but unstoppable on offense and is up to 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Bam Adebayo is the only Heat player in double figures with 15 points.

October 11, 2020 at 8:57 PM EDT

Halftime: Lakers lead Heat 64-36

By Kareem Copeland

The Los Angeles Lakers have blown the doors wide open.

LeBron James and the Lakers piled up the points with 36 in the second quarter to take a 64-36 lead in to halftime thanks to an incredible defensive effort and some hot shooting from the role players.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has scored a game-high 15 points on 5 for 10 shooting and Rajon Rondo added 13 points off the bench on 6 for 6 shooting. The team is shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

James has 11 points, nine rebounds and six rebounds while Anthony Davis posted 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks.

The Heat looks exhausted after exerting a ton of energy to win Game 5. Jimmy Butler has eight points on 3 for 7 shooting as Miami shot 34.2 percent from the field. Not a single Miami player has scored in double figures.

October 11, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT

Rondo taking over

By Kareem Copeland

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo has taken over in the second quarter of Game 5.

The 14-year veteran has exploded for 13 points and is the game’s highest scorer with four minutes remaining in the first half. Rondo’s activity has helped pushed the lead to 51-32. He is 5 for 5 from the field and fans have taken to referring to his recent strong play as “Playoff Rondo.”

The former Celtic is looking for his second world championship after winning the 2008 title with Boston.

October 11, 2020 at 8:20 PM EDT

End first quarter: Lakers lead Heat 28-20

By Kareem Copeland

The Los Angeles Lakers struck first in Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a 28-20 lead after the first quarter as they try to clinch their 17th championship.

The Lakers used an 11-3 stretch to open the lead, a run highlighted by six points from Anthony Davis. An and-1 layup by LeBron James pushed the lead to 28-20.

The Lakers have outscored the Heat 10-0 in transition.

The Heat was bottled up by the Lakers defense, but Miami did have point guard Goran Dragic return to the court after he missed the previous four games with a torn plantar fascia.

October 11, 2020 at 7:59 PM EDT

Green, finacee received death threats after Game 5 miss

By Kareem Copeland

Lakers forward Danny Green said he and his fiancee received death threats after he missed what could have been a championship-clinching three pointer with 7.1 seconds remaining in Game 5.

LeBron James drove to the basket and several Heat defenders collapsed around him and he kicked it out to a wide-open Green at the top of the arc. Green said he had more time to shoot the ball than he realized and wishes he had the shot back.

Social media immediately erupted with some vicious vitriol aimed at Green. Some heavily criticized James for not taking the shot himself.

“It’s a basketball game. People are emotional, fans are emotional,” Green said. “I hope they don’t take it that seriously. I hope that they’re that passionate about voting or injustice for these people who deserve justice — we’ll get some better change along the country. But it’s a basketball game at the end of the day and I know they’re just taking out their emotions and they need somebody to blame and it came down to that last play. Of course I’m the easy target.”

October 11, 2020 at 7:09 PM EDT

Caruso to start, Dragic active

By Kareem Copeland

The Los Angeles Lakers will start guard Alex Caruso in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Caruso will replace center Dwight Howard in the lineup.

The move to go small will push Anthony Davis to the center role and match up closer to Miami’s smaller lineup. Howard has averaged 2.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 14 minutes in the Finals and he and Davis side-by-side put a pair of 7-footers in the lineup. Caruso has averaged 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in the Finals while shooting 42.9 percent from behind the arc.

In more roster news, point guard Goran Dragic is active for the first time since Game 1, when he tore his plantar fascia. Dragic was one of the top reasons the Heat advanced to the Finals as he has averaged 19.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the postseason.

October 11, 2020 at 6:31 PM EDT

What to watch for in Game 6

By Kareem Copeland

The Los Angeles Lakers will take another shot at winning the franchise’s 17th championship tonight when they face the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

The Lakers squandered a 40-point, 13-rebound, seven-assist effort by LeBron James on Friday as Heat forward Jimmy Butler dominated with a triple double. Butler all but willed the Heat to a 111-108 victory with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

James faced some criticism for passing to a wide-open Danny Green for the final shot to win the game — a shot that Green missed. Green said he and his fiancee have received death threats since Game 5.

James remains the favorite to win his fourth Finals MVP to go along with his fourth title if the Lakers clinch. He has averaged 30.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists in the Finals while Anthony Davis has averaged 26.2 points and 9.8 rebounds.

The Heat needs one more victory tonight to force an anything-can-happen Game 7 scenario. Point guard Goran Dragic is listed as doubtful with a torn plantar fascia. Miami got a huge 26-point effort from Duncan Robinson last game and will continue to need someone else to step up with a big game to assist with Butler’s continued brilliance. Center Bam Adebayo has struggled to regain his form since a neck injury forced him to miss Game 2 and 3.

The Miami Heat has won three championships as a franchise with the last coming in 2013.