If you watched tonight’s NBA Finals Game 5 and were left unimpressed, you aren’t a basketball fan. Lakers fans are no doubt upset, and they have every right to be, but even those fans know this simple fact; this was a great game. The outcome, no – they didn’t like that, but the game was, wow. Here is a rundown of the last 3:35 of this game. I will start with a very high-level overview, but will dig in a bit deeper as the game winds down.
|3:35 Lakers lead 99-98|
|3:16 – Heat lead 101-99 on a Duncan Robinson 3pt shot|
|2:52 – Game tied 101-101 on LeBron Free Throws|
|1:51 – Heat lead 103-101 on a Jimmy Butler jump shot|
|1:34 – Lakers lead 104-103 on a LeBron James layup and Free Throw after a foul|
|1:13 – Heat lead 105-104 on a Jimmy Butler fadeaway|
|58.2 – Lakers lead 106-105 on a LeBron James layup after an offensive rebound|
I’m out of breath reliving it as I wrote it all down. That’s a total of four lead changes in just over 2 and 1/2 minutes. Adding to the drama the stars of this amazing game, LeBron James and Jimmy Butler were both visibly exhausted. Neither one was backing down to the other though.
After a timeout Miami retook the lead on two clutch free throws by Jimmy Butler. Let’s dig a little deeper into this game from that point.
46.7 – Heat lead 107-106
This is where I thought the Lakers were in really good shape. Well, to be honest, I thought that a lot throughout this game. Yes, at this point they were losing, but they had the ball with a favorable clock that would likely give them a two for one opportunity. Even if they were to miss a shot this time down, they seemed to be assured of the final possession. But, this wasn’t an ordinary game. What about this season, or this year for that matter, has been ordinary?
The Lakers didn’t seem to be aware of, or they didn’t care, about the two for one opportunity. If they wanted it, they would have taken a shot with about 30 seconds on the clock or so. Instead, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took a three with only seconds to spare in the shot clock and 23.9 in the game. The well defended shot missed, in fact, it missed everything. Normally, an air-ball by the opposing team signals good fortune by the team they are playing against. But again, nothing ordinary about this game.
KCP’s air-ball looked as good as a pass to Anthony Davis, who was doing a great job getting ready to box out for the rebound. Turns out, he was in perfect position to secure the ball. He took the gift and gently layed it in. It took longer than some may have liked, taking away the two for one opportunity, but the Lakers were once again in the lead!
21.8 – Lakers lead 108-107
Now it was Miami’s turn to take advantage of the clock. With 21 seconds in the game and the shot clock obviously off, the Heat had a chance to win it with the final shot. The risky thing about holding the ball for the final shot is, well, you might miss it. So, generally, the right play here is to shoot with about 5 seconds or so on the clock. That will give your team a chance to grab an offensive rebound in the event of a miss and get another shot at it. Normally, you want to wait and let a bit of time off the clock, but as we have already established about normal…
Jimmy Butler, an exhausted Jimmy Butler, saw an opening and drove to the hoop with 16.8 seconds left. It was undeniably early, but Butler saw an opening and we all know the Lakers defense does not often breakdown when they are needed. Butler was not going to let this opportunity go to waste. He drove, Anthony Davis met him in the air and fouled him. The shot did not go in, but he earned two free throws. I can’t imagine the level of pressure Butler faced as he stepped to the line. Actually, Im guessing if you asked him about it, he felt no pressure. Just something the All-World players are built for.
Butler made them both.
16.8 – Heat lead 109-108
The Lakers called their final time-out. Frank Vogel was not the coach the franchise wanted. But he has proven to be the coach this team needed. He made adjustments throughout the playoffs to get the Lakers in the best opportunity to win. He seems to have the respect of the players and tonight, with 16 seconds left, he drew up a really good play to give the Lakers a shot at winning this game. Lakers fans will debate whether or not the play was drawn up for the right player, but it’s hard to deny how effective the play itself was.
LeBron took the pass and didn’t wait too long before attacking. The Lakers, like the Heat just seconds earlier, had an opportunity to win the game on the final shot. In fact, a made final shot could have given the Lakers the game and the Championship! The Heat made it clear they were not going to let James beat them, someone else would have to step up. Davis, who hit a game winning three earlier in these playoffs, seemed hobbled so James’ pass went to Danny Green. A wide open Danny Green. I mean, there was no one anywhere near Danny Green. He was WIDE open.
All the Heat need to do is secure the rebound and the game is over, but the basketball gods wanted the drama extended. The rebound came to Markieff Morris. Just seconds earlier, the ball found Anthony Davis; this has got to be karma. Things were going the Lakers way despite that miss. Morris had the ball with 5.5 seconds left. He was quickly guarded, but he had time to dribble, assess, and make a play. Instead, he seemed to, and I don’t like using this word, panic. My feeling is that he thought there was less time on the clock than there was, so he wanted to make a quick play. It’s one of those things that’s easy to judge, but obviously very difficult to pull off in real time.
He saw Anthony Davis, a hobbled and no doubt also exhausted, Anthony Davis inching towards the rim. Davis is tall and the Lakers regularly lob the ball up to him for easy layups. Morris tried to do that, but instead his pass sailed out of bounds. Maybe a healthy Davis catches that pass? If Morris had known he had time to dribble and assess, he could have possibly found a better option. Instead, the Lakers watched the ball go out of bounds giving the ball and the game to the Miami Heat
0.0 – Heat win 111-108
So now, the aftermath. The Lakers squandered a great opportunity, but you have to give the Miami Heat credit for winning a game that was won on clutch plays by exhausted players. The Lakers still lead three games to two, so they are very clearly still in the drivers seat. However, this game could give the Heat confidence which counts for a lot in these series. More importantly, how hurt is Anthony Davis? He re-aggravated a heel bruise earlier in the game and was limping noticeably in the final seconds. The Lakers will very likely need both LeBron James and Anthony Davis at full strength to win. Now, we just don’t know what state Davis is in.
I wouldn’t bet against a team with LeBron James on it, but James needs help. Hopefully Davis will recuperate and be ready for Game 6. Heck, lets bring Goran Dragic back too, since we are tossing up hopes. It would be great to see the two best teams this season play at full strength. Game 5 set a high standard. Like it or not Lakers fans, here comes Game 6!
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!