Washington, 10 October 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Another triple-double for Jimmy Butler, another win for the Miami Heat, who stayed alive in the NBA Finals.
Butler won a spectacular duel with LeBron James as the Heat temporarily denied the Los Angeles Lakers a chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy with a tense 111-108 victory in game five of the NBA Finals.
Butler had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists and scored eight of Miami’s last 10 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 16.8 seconds left. He registered a 40-point triple-double in the Heat’s game three win.
“I left it all out there on the floor,” said Butler, who played 47 minutes and made 11-of-19 shots and 12-of-12 free throws. “But that’s what we’re gonna have to do.”
James made six three-pointers and totalled 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, but it wasn’t enough to seal his fourth championship. He had won 17 of his last 18 games with a chance to close out his opponent but will have to wait until at least game six on Sunday night.
“That’s the beauty of this game, being able to compete at the highest level,” said James, who made 15-of-21 shots. “We were both just trying to do that, will our team to a victory. He was able to make one more play than I was tonight.”
Seconds away from their first title in 10 years, the disappointment was evident on the faces of the Lakers, while the win gave life to the Heat.
“We’ll definitely bounce back,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s a tough loss, no doubt about it.”
“We ain’t backing down,” Butler said. “We ain’t shying away.”
There were six lead changes in the final two minutes. Butler’s jumper gave the Heat a 103-101 lead but James answered with a powerful drive for a three-point play with 1:34 left.
Butler hit a fadeaway shot over Anthony Davis and James answered with a follow shot for a 106-105 edge with 58 seconds to go. Butler sank two free throws, but Davis put home a miss with 21 seconds remaining.
“Big play after big play,” James said. “We felt like if we could get one stop we could do something on the offensive end.”
Again it was Butler, who drove, drew a foul on Davis – with plenty of complaints from the Lakers – and made both free throws.
“I felt two bad calls at the end put Butler to the line,” Vogel said.
James drove, drew a double-team and passed to Danny Green, who missed a wide-open three-pointer before the Lakers turned it over. Miami’s Tyler Herro added two free throws to seal it.
“I was able to draw two defenders below the free-throw line and find one of our shooters for a wide-open three,” James said. “It just didn’t go. You live with that.”
“At the end of the day, sometimes it is make or miss,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Duncan Robinson made seven three-pointers and scored 26 points for the Heat, who played only seven players and had six in double figures.
Kendrick Nunn scored 14 points off the bench, Bam Adebayo added 13 and Herro 12.
“Those are the games we expect (Robinson) to have,” Butler said. “He’s so confident. He’s gonna continually do it and he’s gonna be the reason we win the next one.”
Davis played through a heel injury to collected 28 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks for the Lakers, who lost for the first time in five postseason games wearing their black “Mamba” jerseys honoring the late Kobe Bryant. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points.
The Lakers trailed by 11 points when James began the comeback with a three-pointer. He found Green for a three-pointer, put home a dunk and set up Caldwell-Pope for a three and a 97-96 lead with 6:18 remaining. Neither team led by more than three points thereafter.
Miami again played without Slovenian guard Goran Dragic, who averages 19 points but has been out since the opener with a torn plantar fascia tendon. Spoelstra also shortened his rotation as centre Kelly Olynyk didn’t play.
A back-and-forth first quarter featured a brief wrestling match between Butler and Dwight Howard and the Lakers calling three timeouts, the last when Davis fell to the floor grabbing his right heel. Davis left the game a bit hobbled but later returned.
Los Angeles had to call another timeout after Miami opened the second period with an 11-3 burst fueled by three buckets by Nunn, opening a 36-27 advantage. The Lakers rallied within 60-56 at halftime behind James, who scored 15 points in the quarter.
Butler had 22 points and six assists at halftime. Robinson made three three-pointers and scored 10 points in the third quarter, then opened the final period with another three to give Miami a 91-82 advantage.