The Miami Heat have survived to play another day.
Jimmy Butler sank two free throws with 16.8 seconds left to give his team a one-point lead. Then the Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green, who was wide open, missed a 3-pointer on their next possession.
After Green’s miss, Markieff Morris grabbed the rebound before committing a costly turnover. Heat rookie Tyler Herro then drained two foul shots to account for the final score, 111-108, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday night at Walt Disney World.
“It was a little bit of luck that Danny Green missed that shot at the top of the key,” Butler told reporters afterward.
LeBron James, playing in his 10th NBA Finals, paced the Lakers with 40 points on 15-for-21 shooting, including six 3-pointers, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. He missed a desperation 3-pointer, which was launched from 40 feet away, at the buzzer.
The Lakers hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday.
How the Miami Heat prevailed
In a down-to-the-wire game, the Miami Heat met the challenge of matching their opponent’s offensive productivity in the final moments.
Duncan Robinson buried a 3-pointer with 3:16 left, which gave the Heat a 101-99 lead. Then there were nine ties or lead changes over the next nine scoring possessions.
Top Miami Heat performers
Butler paced the Miami Heat with 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, and five steals. Five teammates scored in double figures: Robinson (26 points), Kendrick Nunn (14), Bam Adebayo (13), Herro (12), and Jae Crowder (11).
Butler also notched a triple-double in Game 3 as the Heat collected their first victory of the series.
Spoelstra reflected on Butler’s dynamic performance (he played 47 minutes) after the game.
“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,” Spoelstra said.
The Lakers came close
Anthony Davis, who coped with a bruised heel, corralled an offensive rebounds and scored on a putback to give the Lakers a 108-107 lead with 21.8 seconds left.
Seconds later, Butler went to the free-throw line and made two clutch free throws, turning the tide for the Miami Heat.
“We were very close,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel lamented. “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.”
Flow of the game
The Miami Heat led 25-24 after the first quarter, and extended their lead to 60-56 at halftime.
They took an 88-82 advantage into the fourth quarter, then stretched their lead to 93-82 on the second of two Bam Adebayo free throws at the 10:31 mark.
The Lakers transformed the game with a 17-3 spurt, setting the stage for a dramatic conclusion.
After the game, Adebayo discussed what he’s learned from competing in the Finals for the first time.
“Every possession matters,” the Miami Heat star told reporters. “I feel like that’s the biggest thing that I learned. You can go from being up five to down two in a matter of like three possessions or two possessions, it just depends. I think that’s my biggest things on the NBA Finals.”
In addition to LeBron’s headline-grabbing stats, Davis finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocks. Lakers perimeter marksman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope poured in 16 points, Green had eight, and Kyle Kuzma scored seven. Veteran guard Rajon Rondo dished out five assists.
Davis said the intensity of Game 5 was what he’d expected.
“It’s basketball. It’s the Finals,” Davis said. “They wanted to win as bad as we wanted to win. So we’ve just got to go take it on Sunday. We had times to kind of break open the lead and we had too many breakdowns defensively, giving shooters wide open shots, not talking. They are going to make us pay every time. We have to be better on the defensive end.
“But to be that close to accomplishing our goals, you know, like I say, we’ve got another one Sunday and that one we have to go get.”