Miami looks dead in Disney World. But don’t tell that to Jimmy Butler.
After a 116-98 Game 1 shellacking to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, Butler enters Friday’s Game 2 with an ankle sprain and likely missing two key teammates.
Stating point guard Goran Dragic (torn plantar fascia) and starting center Bam Adebayo (neck/shoulder strain) are listed by Pat Riley’s public-relations staff as “doubtful.’’
However, suspicious Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he’s preparing as if they may play.
“Injury reports can change overnight,’’ Vogel said.
By every measure, a Lakers’ sweep looks probable if Dragic, the Heat’s leading scorer in the playoffs, and Adebayo can’t return. The Heat corps looks colder than Riley’s resignation fax to the Knicks in 1995.
“We thrive on that,’’ Butler said about being counted out. “Everybody probably thought they was going to do that to us anyways. They probably think they’re going to do it to us three more times in a row. I beg to differ. Nobody picked us to be here. We love it. But we know that we can win. We do. But we know that we’ve got to play perfect, man.’’
“So coming into Game 2, all the adversity, backs against the wall, yadda, yadda, yadda, we got to win,’’ added the Heat’s 2019 free-agent savior.
Dragic is their premier initiator and Adebayo is a newly minted All-Star and lone presence to combat the Lakers’ massive size.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat will need rookie Kendrick Nunn, recently pulled from the rotation but who lit up for 18 points Wednesday during garbage time, and journeyman center Kelly Olynyk, to fill the void.
“That was not our best version [Wednesday] night,’’ Spoelstra said. “We took it on the chin. It only counts as one.’’
Dragic took a bad step in the second quarter of Game 1 and missed the second half. And he might miss the rest of the series, though he hasn’t ruled out coming back. Adebayo’s neck/shoulder injury is more mysterious as he left in the third period with what the Heat say is different than an earlier shoulder issue.
“I talk to Goran all the time,’’ Butler said. “That’s my guy. It’s just tough to see him in this position because he cares about his teammates, and really wants to win. We know that we need him. You can hear that pain in his voice, of him feeling like he may have let us down, but he did not. I want him to know that. He’s carried us to this point, and it’s only our duty to pay that back to him right now.”
The Lake Show looked unbeatable Wednesday after falling behind by 13 points early and then destroying Miami every which way. Impeccable team defense is the Lakers’ most underrated asset and it showed as the Heat fell out of rhythm.
Anthony Davis, meanwhile, ravaged the Heat for 34 points in his Finals debut while LeBron James quietly posted a near triple-double. That’s mostly because he stayed in across garbage time after the Lakers built a 32-point lead midway through the third period.
Taking nothing for granted, James said he stayed up until 4:30 a.m.Thursday in the Orlando bubble looking at Game 1’s defensive coverages on film. He’s seeking his fourth title with his third team and is leaving nothing to chance.
Yet he also spoke as confidently as he ever has on the Finals stage when the 35-year-old was asked about all his championship-round experiences aiding him.
“All opponents and coaches helped me get to this point where I am today, to a point where I have no weakness, offensively or defensively, to where if I can read a defense, I can exploit it,’’ James said. “It doesn’t mean that the ball goes in all the time, but there’s nothing out on the floor that I cannot do at this point in my career.’’
The Lakers hassled rookie sensation Tyler Herro into a 6 of 18 shooting night. Herro’s defense lagged and he registered an unspeakable minus-35 rating in 30 minutes. Sidekick Duncan Robinson, a 3-point marksman, only got off three 3s — missing them all.
Butler said it was “nerves’’ of several teammates making Finals debuts.
“When it rains, it pours,’’ Butler said.
Even in a bubble.