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Anthony Davis Shines In His NBA Finals Debut, Leading Lakers To Statement Win Over Miami Heat

Davis had 34 points and nine rebounds in the Lakers' 116-98 win over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

It wasn't quite what Anthony Davis had imagined.

The environment didn't match the electricity of the moment. Instead of 19,000 fans screaming, there were some kids cheering for their fathers. Instead of noise levels reaching piercing decibels, the crowd was mostly silent. 

In fact, on the way to the arena, the Lakers sat in traffic waiting for soccer moms to pull into a tournament. Other than the decal on the court and a patch on his uniform, Anthony Davis said it seemed as though it were a normal game in the abnormal NBA Bubble. 

But this was the NBA Finals. 

And it was the 27-year-old's debut on this stage.

Davis acknowledged he had some nerves before tipoff, but they were easy to shake off in this environment. He went on to finish with a game-high 34 points on 11-for-21 shooting and nine rebounds in the Lakers' 116-98 win over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their series. 

That performance tied him with Elgin Baylor for the third-highest scoring debut in The Finals by a Laker, behind Shaquille O'Neal (43 points in 2000) and George Mikan (42 points in 1949). 

Davis took a moment to appreciate that stat, but was quick to point out one that matters more to him. 

"Obviously that's a great honor, but I also want to be mentioned in categories with champions, so that's the next step," Davis said. 

The Lakers trailed by 13 points midway through the first quarter before going on a stunning 75-30 run to lead by as much as 32 points in the third quarter. 

Davis was a big spark for the Lakers during that time, scoring 30 points through three quarters on 11-for-19 shooting, including making two of his four three-point attempts and all six of his free throws. 

Davis, who was traded to the Lakers last summer, had never made it past the second round of the playoffs in seven seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans. Now, playing alongside LeBron James, he's three wins away from leading the Lakers to their first championship since 2010. 

James, who has been to The Finals a stunning 10 times over his 17-season career, said there was no dramatic moment pregame where he pulled Davis aside and gave him an inspiring speech. 

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In fact, when asked how he felt about Davis' performance, James was very unmoved. 

"I don't feel anything," said James, who had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. "I expect it out of him. Didn't need to give him no advice. We've been preparing for this moment all season. He's been preparing for this moment all season. I'm happy to be on the same floor with him and in the same uniform. He was, once again, a force in every facet of the game, offensively and defensively."

The Heat suffered some big setbacks in Game 1. 

Goran Dragic left with six minutes left in the second quarter with what the team called a left foot injury, but ESPN reported was a plantar tear. Bam Adebayo left with six minutes remaining in the third quarter after sustaining a strained left shoulder, though the Heat said his X-rays were negative. And Jimmy Butler sustained a rolled left ankle with 12 seconds left in the second quarter, but played through it, finishing with a team-high 23 points. 

"You see guys work extremely hard to be here and, you know, Goran and Bam are key parts of their team," Davis said. "And so you never want to see guys go down."

The Lakers outrebounded the Heat, 54-36. They also had a huge advantage at the free-throw line, where they made 25 of their 27 attempts, nearly twice as many as the Heat shot (14).

And they did it in front of some familiar faces. 

Former President Barack Obama watched the game from the virtual stands, alongside former Lakers Shaquille O'Neal, James Worthy, Pau Gasol (wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey), Robert Horry and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Also virtually in attendance were Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Bill Walton, Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade, among others. 

But for Davis, the most important fan was actually inside the stadium. 

His father. 

"It means a lot," Davis said. "He forced my mom to do that seven-day quarantine to be here."

After all that hassle, Davis wants to make him proud. 

And he knows what that will take.  

"He wants us to win," Davis said. "He wants me to be a champion."