Miami Heat 111-108 Los Angeles LakersEmbed from Getty Images
Written by Aaron McLuckie
A Jimmy Butler-inspired Miami Heat managed to force a game six against the Los Angeles Lakers in an instant hardwood classic, with a 111-108 victory in Orlando on Friday night.
Danny Green missed a game winning shot and Butler had a 30-point triple double with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists when facing elimination, down 3-1. The performance mirrored Butler’s epic 40-point triple double in Game 3. Butler was also disruptive on the disruptive end with a block and five steals.
LeBron James did his best to lead the Lakers to their 17th franchise championship with 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Outside of Anthony Davis’ 28 and 12, only one other Laker scored in double figures, while six of the seven Heat players that touched the floor scored double figures.
Undrafted duo Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn were thorns in the Lakers side. Robinson scored seven of his 13 three point attempts and finished with 28 points and Nunn provided good energy with 14 points off the bench.
The All NBA duo of James and Davis were not well supported by their role guys, with the Lakers bench combined shooting five from 22 from the field. The Lakers may be looking to shorten their nine-man rotation after this performance; only seven Heat players made the court tonight, with Goran Dragic still missing after his injury sustained in Game one and reserves Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard not seeing any action.
First time All Star, Bam Adebayo did not quite look himself on either end, probably still suffering from the injury that kept him out of Games two and three, he only had 13 points in the game.
Both teams started the game in good offensive rhythm, with eight of the 10 starters all registering points in the five minutes of the opening quarter. The start of the game was not without tension, however, as wily veteran center, Dwight Howard proved an irritant to the Heat players. He and Jimmy Butler were awarded technical fouls after an away from the ball foul resulted in some pushing and shoving. Butler’s teammates were quick to intervene, as the Heat would simply not be able to survive if he was ejected early.
The first quarter closed with Miami leading by a point. Heat shooter Robinson hit two threes in the quarter, as well as astounding with a big put back dunk off a missed three.
Miami started the second quarter on an 11-3 run, with rookie, Nunn scoring with relative ease. The Lakers could feel the impact of Davis’ absence from the court after he limped off, holding his right foot toward the end of the first quarter. James cut the lead to six with back to back three pointers. James then had to inspire his team back again after being down 11 points, he managed to cut the deficit down to just three points with two minutes to go in the half.
The first half ended with the Heat leading 60-56 after Butler hit a three pointer to close out the half. This took Butler to 22 points, who led the game in scoring at half time. He also chipped in with six rebounds, six assists and three steals in the half. Miami were buoyed by Nunn’s 11 first half points, as well as Robinson’s 10. James led the Lakers in scoring at the half, with 21 points. Davis was the only other Laker in double figures with 13. The Lakers were more efficient in their shooting in the first half, but were being out-rebounded by the Heat, after dominating the boards in the first four games of the series.
LeBron had to repeat his antics again in the third, when after a six-point possession for the Heat, they moved into an eight-point lead but James’ long range shooting as well as hustle on the offensive glass helped the Lakers cut the lead back down to one with four minutes to go in the third. His effort could not stop the Heat from taking a six-point lead heading into the final period. Robinson and Jae Crowder completed four point plays late in the third to keep Miami in the lead.
Miami stretched their lead back up to 11 early in the fourth quarter but James answered with his sixth three pointer of the game, but he could not help their four turnovers in the first three minutes of the quarter. The Lakers managed to turn thigs around and took their first lead since the first quarter when they lead by one with 6:18 to go. Stagnant Heat offense led to open threes for Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (both assisted by James), as well as several free throws for Davis.
Miami were able to retake the lead with yet another Robinson three, but their lead was short lived, as James hit a pair of free throws at the other end.
Butler retook the lead with a pull up midrange jump shot with two minutes to go, but LeBron would go down and convert an and one down the court on the next possession.
Butler replied with a turnaround fade away. James would again get the bucket in reply for the Lakers. The two titans were going blow for blow, truly showing their greatness.
The next points for Miami were scored by who else but Jimmy Butler, with two converted from the line.
The next possession for the Lakers resulted in Caldwell-Pope taking a contested three, his air ball was recovered by Davis, who was able to just get his shot of before the shot clock expired. The Heat then took their last timeout with 21.3 left on the clock.
Butler would go downhill and get fouled by Davis and go to the line with 16.8 on the clock, he made both free throws.
Green would get a good look at a three pointer which hit the front rim, Markieff Morris grabbed the rebound and tried to get it back to Davis down low but it would go out of bounds.
The Heat were able to inbound to Tyler Herro who would get fouled and made both free throws. The Lakers could not get a shot off with no timeouts left and just over a second left, and Miami forced a game six in an all-time classic NBA finals game.
Sub-edited by Harry Shone