Alex Caruso: Lakers Struggling To Match Early Intensity From Heat

The Los Angeles Lakers’ expected celebration of a 17th championship was put on hold as the Miami Heat outplayed them down the stretch to force a Game 6 in the 2020 NBA Finals.

Both teams laid all out on the floor, but Jimmy Butler once again proved he is able to come through when the Heat need him most. Butler recorded his second triple-double of the Finals, exploding for 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in 47 minutes while also defending LeBron James on the other end.

While the game was close throughout the night, Miami dictated the terms of engagement early with their execution and effort. They took an early lead and kept the momentum for most of the game but more importantly responded whenever the Lakers made a run.

“Miami plays their brand of basketball really well. They’ve come out and been the aggressor for tonight for sure and in Game 3,” Alex Caruso said.

“They won those games, so maybe that’s a high point for us is to make sure we play better for the full 12 minutes in the first quarter. Make sure the starting group does their job and the bench guys come in and do our job.”

Miami has not been one to back down from any team, and they showed just how resilient they are even when it appears the odds are stacked against them. Although Butler was the main issue for the Lakers, Duncan Robinson also got hot from beyond the arc as he nailed seven 3-pointers en route to 26 points.

Caruso previously acknowledged that Game 5 was going to be L.A.’s most challenging moment of the 2020 NBA Playoffs and he was proven right after their performance.

Now the pressure to win Game 6 looms large and should be another dogfight considering the circumstances.

Frank Vogel on importance of role players stepping up

James and Davis played just about as well as they could have, but still came up short. They combined for 68 of the team’s 108 points, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only other Laker to score in double digits.

L.A. does not have a traditional third star, instead relying on someone else to step up on any given night. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel recently discussed how several players have been able to fill that need throughout the year.

“We set out at the beginning of the year to be a team that’s greater than the sum of our parts, to be a team-first team that has obviously our two mega stars but we needed everybody else to try to star in their roles,” explained Vogel.

“Without those guys, we don’t win at nearly the level that we have. We are not in the position we are right now. I think KCP and Danny and Rondo the other night in particular were huge for us winning that basketball game.

“I think Kyle Kuzma is quietly having a huge impact on this series, Markieff Morris is having a huge impact on this series, Dwight sets the tone with his physicality, both of our bigs have been great for us all year long.

“It’s definitely a team effort in what we’re trying to accomplish.”

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