Lakers beat Miami Heat 116-98  in NBA Finals opener
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Barack Obama (centre) and Shaquille O'Neal (left) appeared as 'virtual' fans courtside
Barack Obama (centre) and Shaquille O'Neal (left) appeared as 'virtual' fans courtside

LeBron James says the Los Angeles Lakers still have “a lot more work to do” after they comfortably beat the injury-hit Miami Heat 116-98 in game one of the NBA Finals.

Anthony Davis scored 34 points for the Lakers, with James adding 25 points and nine assists.

Jimmy Butler had 23 points for the Heat, who lost point guard Goran Dragic and forward Bam Adebayo to injury.

James said: “The job is not done. We’re not satisfied winning one game.”

Speaking after Thursday’s game, he added: “You have to get a feel for how hard Miami plays. We got a sense for that. We got more work to do. It’s that simple.”

The Lakers went into the series as overwhelming favourites to land a record-equalling 17th NBA Championship title, 10 years after their last finals appearance.

However, it was the Heat who began the game on top, racing into a 13-point lead in the first quarter.

That advantage would not last long, though, as the Lakers scored 11 three-pointers to complete a 30-point turnaround by the end of the first half – before surging clear in the second.

“They’re a great team. They’re here for a reason,” said Lakers forward Davis. “They came out very hot, we came out slow.

“We can’t come out like that in game two.

“If we want to win this series and become champions we’ve got to come out better from the start.”

Miami’s evening was made worse by Dragic and Adebayo both being forced out of the game.

Dragic, Miami’s leading scorer in the post-season, suffered a foot injury in the second quarter, while Adebayo left with a shoulder strain in the third.

Butler was also forced to leave the court with a sprained ankle, but was able to return in the fourth quarter.

“I’ll be OK. Some treatment and I get ready to go again. I’ve got to be ready to go,” he said.

Game two of the best-of-seven series is on Friday.

Passion and protest in the Orlando bubble

Since resuming in July, the season is being played inside the ‘NBA Bubble’ at Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Coronavirus restrictions mean no fans are allowed, leading to an eerie atmosphere at what should be one of the United States’ greatest sporting occasions.

Though the stands were empty, a virtual crowd was projected on to a big screen courtside, including some well-known faces, such as former US president Barack Obama and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.

Former Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol was also among the virtual fans and wearing a Lakers number eight jersey, the now-retired shirt made famous by the legendary Kobe Byrant, who died in a helicopter crash earlier this year (BBC Sport).

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