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A decade-long wait is over for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA crowned a new champion as the Lakers picked the Miami Heat apart, 106-93, and wrapped up the Finals in 6 games on Sunday, October 11 (Monday, October 12, Manila time).
LeBron James delivered a triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists to propel the Lakers to their first championship since 2010 and in the process clinch his fourth NBA crown.
James, who also led the Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers to titles, became only the third man in NBA history to win championships with 3 different teams, joining teammate Danny Green, John Salley, and Robert Horry.
The Heat seemed to have found answer for the Lakers after they staved off elimination with an inspired Game 5 win.
But that only delayed the Lakers’ coronation of their 17th crown as the Heat ran out of steam, getting buried by as many as 30 points, 64-34, in the first half and 36 points, 82-46, in the entire game.
The Lakers leveled the Boston Celtics for most NBA championships, ending their great rivals’ more than a half-century reign as the winningest team in league history.
“Our organization want their respect. Laker Nation want their respect. I want my damn respect too,” said James. (READ: LeBron James crowned Finals MVP as Lakers end NBA title drought)
Anthony Davis chalked up 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the clincher to capture his maiden NBA title in his first season with the Lakers.
Rajon Rondo put up 19 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 17 points as they both played a huge role in the 13-point romp, doing most of the damage in the Lakers’ huge first half.
The Heat trailed by only 6 points, 22-28, before they fell apart defensively and witnessed the Lakers’ lead swell to 64-34 off back-to-back Caldwell-Pope three-pointers.
By the end of the first half, the Lakers already had 4 players in double figures in James, Davis, Rondo, and Caldwell-Pope, while the Heat had none.
The title win marked an emotional return to the NBA summit for the storied Lakers, whose last championship came during the tenure of late franchise great Kobe Bryant.
Bryant died in January and the Lakers vowed to dedicate the season to him and his daughter Gianna, who also died along with 7 others in a horrific helicopter crash in Los Angeles.
“We did not let him down,” Davis said of Bryant.
Aside from Davis, there were plenty of first time champions for the Lakers, namely Dwight Howard, Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma, and head coach Frank Vogel.
Green and Javale McGee won their third NBA title, while Rondo, JR Smith, and Quinn Cook captured their second championship.
Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in a heartbreaking end to the season that still felt like an overachievement.
Hardly anyone picked the Heat to reach the NBA Finals but they exceeded expectations and pulled off surprises, becoming the first team to drag the Lakers to a Game 6 in this playoffs.
If not only for injuries – Adebayo and Goran Dragic missed 2 and 4 games, respectively – fatigue, and the Lakers’ superior defense, the Heat could have written a different script.
Fatigue was evident in Game 6 as playing for more than 40 minutes in the last 5 finals games took its toll on Butler, who got limited to 12 points after erupting for 35 points in Game 5.
Butler still wound up with 8 assists and 7 rebounds, Jae Crowder had 12 points, while Duncan Robinson chipped in 10 points in the loss.
Davis over the hump
Miami got an emotional lift with the return of high-scoring guard Goran Dragic with 1:09 remaining in the opening quarter.
Dragic had been sidelined since suffering a torn plantar fascia in his left foot in Game 1, but he finished the night with just 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Butler’s early struggles presaged the Heat’s fate. He connected on just one basket in the opening quarter and the Lakers were on their way to the title by halftime.
“Obviously nobody likes to lose,” Butler said. “But I think we fought all year long, ups and downs, we stayed together – and I think that’s what it’s all about.”
James said one of the great satisfactions of the victory was helping Davis gain a title.
“I know what it feels like to have 7 years where you feel like you can’t get over the hump,” said James, who had his arms around Davis on the sideline as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“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.” – with a report from Agence France-Presse