The trophy was ready. But Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat delayed its appearance.
The NBA Finals are not over, not after Butler and the Heat pulled off a virtuoso performance in Game 5 on Friday night.
Butler had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Heat watched Danny Green’s wide-open 3-pointer in the final seconds bounce off the rim on the way to beating Los Angeles 111-108 – cutting the Lakers’ lead in the title series to 3-2.
Game 6 is Sunday night.
Duncan Robinson had 26 points for Miami, which used seven players. Kendrick Nunn had 14 points, Bam Adebayo 13, Tyler Herro 12 and Jae Crowder 11. The seventh player, Andre Iguodala, didn’t score.
They had enough.
LeBron James had 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers. Anthony Davis scored 28 points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 16.
The Lakers were seconds away from the title before the Heat rallied to save the season.
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James reacts after their loss to Miami Heat during Game Five of the NBA Finals, Florida, U.S., October 9, 2020. /CFP
Los Angeles broke out all the stops: Davis had shiny gold sneakers on, the hue similar to the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and the team made the decision earlier in the week to skip on the scheduled purple uniforms and wear the black ones designed and inspired by Kobe Bryant instead.
They were 4-0 in those uniforms. They’re 4-1 now.
But Bryant, oh, how he would have loved this fight. Drama, all the way to the end.
Robinson’s 3-pointer with 3:13 left put Miami up by two, and started a stretch where the next nine scoring possessions from either side resulted in a tie or a lead change.
Back and forth they went. Butler got fouled with 46.7 seconds left, then slumped over the baseline video boards, clearly exhausted. He made both foul shots for a one-point lead; Davis’ putback with 21.8 seconds left got the Lakers back on top.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used his last timeout before the ensuing possession, just to buy Butler a couple minutes of rest. Butler drove the lane, drew contact and made both with 16.8 seconds left for a 109-108 lead.
The Lakers’ mission at that point could not have been more simple: Get a basket, win a title.
Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers yells and celebrates against the Miami Heat during Game Five of the NBA Finals, Florida, U.S., October 9, 2020. /CFP
They couldn’t do it. James found him all alone for a top-of-the-key 3-pointer which missed, and Herro finished it off with two free throws.
Miami was up 93-82 with 10:17 left when James made his sixth 3-pointer of the night – on eight tries to that point.
It was go time for the Lakers.
James’ 3 started a 17-3 run over the next 4:50. Caldwell-Pope hit a 3-pointer to put the Lakers up 97-96, then added a basket in transition about a minute later. Nobody was seated on the Lakers’ bench. The Heat went frigid.
But behind Butler, they rallied.
Butler became the sixth player in NBA Finals history to have multiple triple-doubles in the same title series: Magic Johnson and James have both done it three times, while Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Draymond Green have done it once.