The Los Angeles Lakers were widely expected to close out the NBA Finals in Game 5, particularly with their decision to switch to the Black Mamba City Edition jersey, but the Miami Heat fought every step of the way to earn a 111-108 win to avoid elimination.
It was a back and forth affair to begin the game as the Lakers and Heat traded baskets, but things quickly escalated when Dwight Howard and Jimmy Butler got tangled up. Despite the early skirmish, Los Angeles kept their composure and were able to take a slight 14-11 advantage.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel opted to extend his two-big lineup and the Heat took advantage of their speed and ball movement to spark a 9-0 run. Anthony Davis appeared to injure his foot/ankle and was forced to leave the game.
He went down to the floor in considerable pain and limped to the bench. Davis at one point appeared to be headed for the locker room but he remained on the bench. It was then reported Davis re-aggravated a right heel contusion.
Avoiding a major scare, L.A. ended the first quarter only down 25-24.
Kendrick Nunn was a massive boost off the bench for the Heat as he scored a quick nine points to extend their lead. James responded by knifing into the paint and hitting a pair of threes to keep the team afloat, cutting the deficit in half.
The defensive effort finally picked up for the Lakers as they forced missed shots to get out on the break for easy baskets to ignite an 8-0 run. Rajon Rondo had a strong close to the quarter with a nice dish to Davis and two drives to the basket that, but a Butler three kept the Lakers down 60-56 at halftime.
The third quarter mirrored the first as both teams started out trading big-time buckets, particularly between James and Butler. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came alive by hitting two threes, but Butler finished a tough tip-in after taking a shot from Howard to keep Miami in front.
With the Heat starting to pull away, James once again responded with active defense and timely buckets to close the gap. However, defensive breakdowns and shotmaking for Miami put them up 88-82 heading into the final quarter.
Duncan Robinson made plays for Miami on both ends by nailing another open three and drawing a charge on James. However, James made sure to keep LA within striking distance by commanding the offense and making plays nearly every time down.
Caldwell-Pope came up clutch again, scoring five consecutive points to give the Lakers the lead. That was only for the Heat to again claw back and pull even. Each team traded haymakers, and for the Lakers that meant James relentlessly attacking the basket.
Davis came up with an offensive rebound and putback to give the Lakers a lead with 21.8 seconds remaining, but Butler drew a foul on him and sank both free throws to put the Heat back ahead. A missed Green 3-pointer and turnover cost the Lakers and led to the loss.
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