The Los Angeles Lakers endured a moment of reflection when they fell to the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Miami showed resilience and extended the series for one more game on the back of Jimmy Butler’s triple-double, his second of the Finals.
L.A. then dominated the exhausted Heat in Game 6, with their lead reaching 36 points in the third quarter. LeBron James and Anthony Davis led the way, but role players Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were factors as well.
With the Lakers cruising to a win, they were able to empty their bench in the final minutes. That provided the likes of Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley and Dwight Howard to log time in the decisive win. Cook and Dudley had hardly played prior to that point.
Even though it took the Lakers six games to win their 17th championship in franchise history, Jared Dudley said on the “Bill Simmons Podcast” they never doubted they would eventually claim the NBA crown as Miami did not have what it took to beat L.A.:
“We knew they didn’t have enough. Let’s just be honest. We knew that. But, we knew that we couldn’t let our guard down. Their whole thing is they’re very similar to the Warriors in the sense of Bam is their Draymond and they have two shooters who aren’t as good but still they come off these different pin downs, they do the split action, they drive, they look for shooters. … For us, it was, ‘Hey, let’s just lock into what we can control.’ Don’t let Robinson hit these threes that are we let our guard down. Herro is a rookie, we know percentages are going to even out. He was making every floater, every tough shot. We know he’s going to come back to Earth.
“For Jimmy, we actually gave Jimmy a little too much respect. We wanted to force him left, in the post we didn’t double, we just let him go to the basket so he was getting easy twos. It really took us to Game 6, where we started to trap him in the post and pick him up full court.”
Up until late in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, it was the Lakers and James who basketball analysts thought were not good enough to win the title in the Orlando bubble. James used the “rumblings of doubt” as an extra motivation and led L.A. to the title, proving the skeptics wrong along the way.
The Lakers did have injury luck on their side as Davis pushed through a heel issue, but the Heat played multiple games without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. Heading into the NBA Finals, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel touted the Heat as having three All-Star caliber players in Butler, Adebayo, and when healthy, Dragic.
LeBron texted Lakers Game 6 was a ‘must-win’
Despite their confidence, the Game 5 loss clearly irked the Lakers. James in particular was determined to close the series out at the next opportunity and, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope revealed, texted his teammates with an important message ahead of Game 6. “There was a message: Must win,” Caldwell-Pope said.
“Also it said this is a Game 7 game. We wanted to treat it like it was Game 7, and we wanted to come out in the first quarter and impose our will, which we weren’t doing to start the series.”
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