LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida, USA (AP) – The trophy was ready. Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat postponed his delivery.
The NBA final is not over, due to the virtuous performance of Butler and the Heat on Friday in Game 5.
Butler had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Heat watched Danny Green’s 3-pointer bounce off the rim without going into the final seconds. Miami outscored Los Angeles 111-108 and cut the Lakers’ lead in the title series to 3-2.
“This is Jimmy Butler”, highlighted his partner Bam Adebayo. “He is our star player and the one we turn to in the important moments.”
In the throes of the game, Butler leaned on top of an electronic whiteboard positioned in the baseline. Exhausted, he struggled for air, after giving it his all.
The sixth match will take place on Sunday.
Duncan Robinson contributed 26 points for Miami, which used a seven-player rotation. Kendrick Nunn had 14 points, Adebayo 13, Tyler Herro 12 and Jae Crowder 11. The seventh player, Andre Iguodala did not score.
That was enough.
LeBron James had 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers. Anthony Davis scored 28 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 16.
The Lakers were seconds away from the title before the Heat rallied to save the season.
The Heat placed three players in front of James as he advanced to the basket and knocked the ball out of his hands. The Heat were leading by one point and the Lakers needed only one shot to win.
James recovered the ball and found Green unmarked in the three-second zone. He sent him a delayed pass, but Green’s shot fell short and the Heat secured the win with a pair of free throws.
“It was a bit of luck that Danny Green missed that shot from the area,” Butler said.
“We had a tremendous opportunity to win the game to take the series,” said James. “But the ball didn’t go in.”
Davis played despite suffering a blow to the heel. He sniffed the chance to be crowned. He wore gold shoes, similar in hue to the Larry O’Brien trophy. For days, the team had decided to dispense with the purple uniforms for this match and wear the black ones, designed and inspired by the late Kobe Bryant.
They were 4-0 in those outfits. Now, the record is 4-1.
But surely Bryant would have loved this hard-fought match, dramatically until the end.