Lak­ers close in on 17th NBA crown

Business World - - World Sports -

IN THE wan­ing sec­onds of Mi­ami’s vic­tory in Game 3 of the NBA Fi­nals on Sun­day, Heat star Jimmy But­ler warned LeBron James that the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers were “in trou­ble,” re­turn­ing a jab James had sent his way at the be­gin­ning of the con­test.

It looked as if But­ler would be the right one at the start of Game 4 on Tues­day. James played slop­pily, turn­ing the ball over five times in the first half while be­ing lim­ited to eight points. Still, Los An­ge­les held a two-point lead.

Twenty-four minutes is plenty of time to turn trou­ble into tri­umph, as James has proven many times over dur­ing his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer. The su­per­star fin­ished with game highs of 28 points and 12 re­bounds as the Lak­ers moved one win away from their 17th cham­pi­onship with a 102- 96 vic­tory at the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion ( NBA) bub­ble near Or­lando.

An­thony Davis added 22 points, Ken­tavi­ous Cald­well-Pope scored 15 and Danny Green did 10 for the Lak­ers, who will look to close out the se­ries on Fri­day. A vic­tory would tie Los An­ge­les with the Bos­ton Celtics for most cham­pi­onships in NBA his­tory.

Jimmy But­ler led the Heat with 22 points, 10 re­bounds and nine as­sists. Tyler Herro added 21 points and Dun­can Robin­son had 17. Bam Ade­bayo re­turned from two games missed with a neck/ shoul­der in­jury to score 15 while Go­ran Dragic (foot) re­mained side­lined.

James’ early strug­gles Tues­day mir­rored his per­for­mance in Game 3, when he was re­spon­si­ble for eight of the Lak­ers’ 19 turnovers. He but­toned things up in the sec­ond half, los­ing the ball just once while his team kept Mi­ami at bay.

“A per­fect game is not go­ing to hap­pen, but that doesn’t mean you still don’t strive to be as great as you can be ev­ery night,” James said. “Tonight was one of those games where we had to win on the de­fen­sive end and make some timely shots.”

The timely shots in this one be­longed to Cald­well-Pope, who buried a 3-pointer with 2:58 re­main­ing to put Los An­ge­les up 93-88. Af­ter Ade­bayo couldn’t beat the shot clock on a jumper, Cald­wellPope fin­ished a layup on the other end for a seven-point lead.

“KCP down the stretch, big guts to take and make those shots that he took,” Lak­ers coach Frank Vo­gel said.

Jae Crow­der nailed a trey to cut the Heat’s deficit to four with 1:37 left, but Ra­jon Rondo scored his first bucket of the game, and Davis fol­lowed from 3-point range to seal the game for Los An­ge­les.

“We know we’ve got to be bet­ter. We know that we can be bet­ter,” said But­ler, who was un­able to re­peat his 40- point hero­ics from Game 3. “We’ve got to play damn near per­fect to beat them — we didn’t do that tonight.”

Down by five to be­gin the fourth quar­ter, Mi­ami knot­ted the score at 83 on a But­ler layup with 6:27 left.

The Lak­ers scuf­fled to be­gin the third be­fore James nailed a deep 3-pointer for a 55-54 edge. That kicked off an 11-3 stretch dur­ing which James ei­ther scored or as­sisted on each of his team’s buck­ets.

The Los An­ge­les lead reached 71-64 on back-to-back threes from Kyle Kuzma and Davis. The Lak­ers ended the quar­ter up 75-70.

Trail­ing 27- 22 af­ter one, the Heat be­gan the sec­ond quar­ter on a 12-2 run to grab a five-point lead of their own.

Los An­ge­les equal­ized at 39 on a Marki­eff Mor­ris trey and pulled away to 49-45 on an Alex Caruso 3-pointer with 27.6 sec­onds re­main­ing. A Herro jumper just be­fore the buzzer cut Mi­ami’s deficit at the break to two.

De­spite the loss, the Heat ben­e­fit­ted from the re­turn of Ade­bayo, who played 33 minutes.

“I thought he was great, con­sid­er­ing he hasn’t played in a week,” Mi­ami coach Erik Spoel­stra said. “He’s the heart and soul of who we are, so it was just great to have him back out there.” —

REUTERS

LOS AN­GE­LES LAK­ERS FOR­WARD LEBRON JAMES (23) drives to the bas­ket against Mi­ami Heat for­ward Jimmy But­ler (22) dur­ing the fourth quar­ter in game 4 of the 2020 NBA Fi­nals at Ad­ven­tHealth Arena.

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