The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat had an absolute slugfest in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and in the end it was Jimmy Butler pushing his team over the top and forcing a Game 6.
Butler was outstanding for the Heat all night, but down the stretch it was his ability to get to the free throw line that proved invaluable. As the teams traded points in crunch time, Miami benefitted from Butler drawing the whistle.
Butler knocked down all four of the free throws during the final minute of the game to twice put the Heat ahead, including for good on the second time. “It’s a tough loss. There’s no doubt about it. We were very close,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said.
“I felt two bad calls at the end put Butler to the line and that’s unfortunate in a game of this magnitude. Anthony Davis has a perfect verticality, should be a play on. And the time before that, Markieff Morris has his hands on the ball, that should be a play on.
“They were given four free throws and made it an uphill battle for us. Very disappointed in that aspect of the game, but our group’s fine. We’re going to bounce back strong. We’ll have a better performance in Game 6, and we’ve got to play better for the 48 minutes leading up to that last minute.”
Though the foul calls could be argued either way, an aggressive player tends to get the benefit of the doubt on plays like that and Butler was exactly that.
He finished with 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals in another virtuoso performance. Butler also went to the free throw line 12 times and knocked down every one of them as he was once again the player who found himself at the charity stripe the most.
There were undoubtedly some foul calls throughout the entire contest that could have been play-on situations, but the ones in the final minute will always get the most attention.
Unfortunately for Vogel and the Lakers, the calls in Game 5 went the way of Butler and the Heat and while there may be some arguments, it was far from the only reason L.A. didn’t finish out the series.
Despite outstanding performances from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers simply didn’t get enough from their supporting cast to come out victorious.
Davis shakes off injury
One of the biggest stories of Game 5 was the injury concern for Davis who had multiple scares. Near the end of the first quarter he fell to the floor, grabbing at his heel, which caused major concern for a possible torn Achilles.
He would return, but in the fourth quarter suffered another ankle injury that hobbled him down the stretch. With a Game 6 coming up the questions were bound to come, but Davis shut down any concerns about his availability.
“I’ll be fine on Sunday,” he said.
While Davis may not be quite at 100% following these issues, there was no chance he wouldn’t be suiting up for Game 6 unless it was a major injury. Even if he isn’t completely healthy, Davis won’t let anything stop him from trying to bring home his first NBA Championship.
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