Miami Heat wins Game 5 and spoils Lakers’ title plans

 Jimmy Butler’s prediction came to fruition, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ title celebration will have to wait.


While soaking in the afterglow of his 40-point performance in Game 3 of the Finals, Butler took a moment to issue a challenge to second-year guard Duncan Robinson, whose roundabout trip to the Miami Heat included playing stops at Division III Williams College and the G League.

Robinson, the all-star forward insisted, needed to shake off his jitters and let it fly.

“Duncan needs to shoot the ball a lot more,” Butler said. “He needs to hunt shots because he’s going to be a reason that we win one of these games. He’s going to hit six [or] seven three-pointers and I’m going to jump up and down and I’m going to give him a big hug, maybe a slight kiss on the back of his head. I know how important that guy is to our team.”

Sure enough, Robinson made Butler look prophetic and Butler handled the rest by outdueling LeBron James in a tense contest that went down to the wire. Butler finished with a team-high 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals to lead the Heat to a 111-108 victory in Game 5 on Friday.

“No matter how they guard me, I’m going to make the right play,” Butler said. “I’m sure [the Lakers] wanted to win and thought they were going to win coming into it. [Game 6] is going to be even harder for us next game, but I like our chances.”

Butler scored six straight points for Miami late, but it was Robinson’s unexpected breakthrough that put the Heat in position to narrow the Lakers’ series lead to 3-2 and force a Game 6 on Sunday.

Robinson, who had been quiet all series, drilled seven three-pointers and scored 26 points. His seventh three-pointer put Miami ahead with under four minutes to play. His constant off-ball movement gave the Lakers’ fits, as did his ability to draw fouls while in the act of shooting. Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra praised Robinson’s “makeup and character,” noting that he “dusts himself off” when the Lakers’ physical defense tried to bully him.

“I thought I was a little more persistent tonight getting to the ball and getting to my spots,” Robinson said. “That helped, and it helps to see some fall in. That helped build confidence more. [Butler] took us home. He does whatever it takes to win. He hit some shots. He made plays on both sides of the court. He willed it. It’s not always pretty, but he always finds a way.”

Indeed, if Robinson played setup, Butler played closer, repeatedly driving hard to the basket and getting rewarded with trips to the line. Butler made two free throws with 16.8 seconds remaining in the game to put the Heat up for good, and the Lakers’ missed their chance at a dramatic title-clinching moment when Danny Green missed an open three-pointer on a pass from James on the Lakers’ final possession.

“I was able to draw two defenders below the free throw line and find one of our shooters at the top of a key for a wide open three to win a championship,” James said. “I trusted him. I know [Green] wishes he could have it again. I wish I could make a better pass. You live with it.”

Before the tight endgame, there was total silence and a nausea-inducing sense of deja vu. Late in the first quarter, Anthony Davis fell to the court clutching the back of his right foot.

Davis, who has been sensational throughout the playoffs, remained on the court for an extended period, surrounded by teammates and medical personnel. Eventually, he rose and walked gingerly to the bench, choosing not to go back to the locker room. The Lakers looked stunned without him, falling into a nine-point hole before word spread that disaster had been averted. Davis had only sustained a right heel contusion, not an Achilles’ injury like the one that felled Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant in last year’s Finals.

Los Angeles needed a few minutes to regain its composure as Butler capitalized on Davis’s absence. Hounded by Davis throughout Game 4, Butler pounded the Lakers’ other defenders to score 22 points in the first half as the Heat built an 11-point second-quarter lead.

James looked for his own offense to steady the ship, scoring 21 first-half points before finishing with game-high 40 points to go with 13 rebounds and seven assists in defeat. It was just his second loss in his last 18 closeout opportunities, and he watched as Davis sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter and hobbled through the game’s closing minutes.

“There's no pressure,” said Davis, who added that he would be “fine” to play in Game 6. “We're motivated to finish this thing off and hoist that trophy.”

Los Angeles had looked fierce, focused and dressed for their championship moment coming out of the gate. Dwight Howard set a physical tone early during a tangle with Butler that led to double technical fouls, and the Lakers regularly found success converting Heat turnovers into transition opportunities. Once he returned to the game, Davis got back up to speed, hitting a deep three-pointer before halftime and resuming his defensive responsibilities on Butler.

The Lakers donned their preferred black jerseys — a tribute to franchise legend Kobe Bryant, who died tragically in January — and Davis wore a gold pair of Bryant’s sneakers, an apparent nod to the Larry O’Brien trophy. Yet the confetti never fell.

“We were very close,” Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said. “I felt two bad calls at the end put Butler to the line and that’s unfortunate in a game of this magnitude.”

The Heat were glad to spoil the script. Six Miami players finished in double figures, including rookie guard Kendrick Nunn, who finished with 14 points and was a key first-half spark.

Now the Lakers must regroup and lick their wounds while Butler savors his future-telling.

“We’re here to win,” Butler said. “These next two, we’re in the trenches.”

Post a comment

0 Comments