If I had to describe Game 5 of the NBA Finals in one line, it’d be: ‘Two men’s ultimate desire to win.’ LeBron James for the Los Angeles Lakers and Jimmy Butler for the Miami Heat, dueled back and forth for 48 minutes in a nail-biting finisher to claim victory for their respective ball clubs. We witnessed greatness unravel in this matchup of stars.

jimmy butler game 6
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Game 5 NBA FinalsLos Angeles Lakers v/s Miami Heat (108-111)

[Lakers lead series 3-2]

Starting lineups:

  • LA Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, LeBron James
  • Miami Heat: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo, Jae Crowder, Jimmy Butler

Note: Goran Dragic (Miami) was out with a torn plantar in his left foot.

Jimmy Butler was seen slumping over the video board behind the baseline after being fouled on a layup in the last seconds of the game- he was exhausted, gasping for air. Having played 47 minutes 22 seconds out of a total of 48 minutes in the game, the man left nothing in his tank, he put it all on the court.

Jimmy Butler put up a virtuoso performance in Game 5 to keep his team alive in these finals and prevented the Lakers from lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy for the 17th time in their NBA history. Jimmy ‘Buckets’ had a triple-double of 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists as the Heat spoiled LA’s chance of winning the Finals in their patented ‘Black Mamba’ jerseys. “That’s Jimmy Butler,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “That’s our max player and that’s who we go to in these moments.”

“That’s what my team asked of me. That’s what they needed me to do,” Butler said of his Game 5 performance. “I think [Pat Riley] and [Erik Spoelstra] brought me here for that reason, to help us win games. And I have to continue to do that for two more games.”

The Los Angeles Lakers had been 4-0 in those jersey’s leading up to this matchup, and now they’re 4-1.

LeBron James, the player with the best closeout-game record in NBA history was everything and more for his team- he was magisterial. He put up 40 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists in 42 minutes- indeed a performance worthy of being called the ‘King’. Although, on the possession that decided everything Friday night, the Heat forced the ball out of James’ hands by basically sending three defenders at him as he drove down the right side of the lane, the Heat up by one, the Lakers only needing one basket for a title. He found a wide-open Danny Green at the top of the key; his shot was well-short and the Heat closed out the game with a pair of free throws from Tyler Herro.

“It was a little bit of luck that Danny Green missed that shot at the top of the key,” Butler said.

“We got a hell of a look to win the game, to win the series,” James said. “It didn’t go down.”

Duncan Robinson, who had been having a pretty dour shooting streak throughout these finals, found his shooting stroke when it mattered most: scoring 26 points on 7-13 shooting from behind the arc as he was the Robin to Jimmy Butler’s Batman. The other LA superstar, Anthony Davis, battling with a bruised heel all game long had 28 points, 12 rebounds to go along with three blocks and three steals. KCP was LA’s third option on offense tonight with 16 points and was active on the defensive end of the floor.

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

“Every young player coming into this league should study footage on Jimmy Butler, the definition of a two-way player competing on both ends, five steals, and then making those big plays down the stretch for us offensively,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

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. “He’s been as close to perfect as you possibly can get,” Adebayo said.

James and Davis were a combined 24 for 36. The rest of the Lakers were 14 for 46. It was playoff game No. 259 for James, tying Derek Fisher for the most in NBA playoff history. The Lakers’ reserves shot 5 for 22.

With Game 6 of the Finals taking place on Monday at 5:00 AM IST, the Lakers will be looking to close out the Heat then to avoid taking it to a Game 7- because in Game 7’s, anything can happen.

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