Mem­o­rable duel with James presses pause on Lak­ers’ cel­e­bra­tion

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By Tim Reynolds

Le­Bron James and Co. will try again tonight for the NBA ti­tle af­ter Jimmy But­ler’s big ef­fort Fri­day forced Game 6.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jimmy But­ler was slumped over a video board be­hind the base­line in the fi­nal sec­onds, ex­hausted, gasp­ing for air.

He gave it all.

The Mi­ami Heat needed noth­ing less.

The NBA Fi­nals — and Mi­ami’s ti­tle chances — are not over, since But­ler and the Heat pulled off a vir­tu­oso per­for­mance in Game 5 Fri­day night. But­ler had 35 points, 12 re­bounds and 11 as­sists as the Heat held off Los An­ge­les 111-108 to cut the Lak­ers’ lead in the ti­tle series to 3-2.

“That’s Jimmy But­ler,” Heat cen­ter Bam Ade­bayo said. “That’s our max player and that’s who we go to in these mo­ments.”

With good rea­son. He didn’t let them down, though Le­Bron James — seek­ing a fourth ti­tle and the player with the best close-out-game record in NBA his­tory — was mas­ter­ful.

James had 40 points,13 re­bounds and seven as­sists for the Lak­ers. But on the pos­ses­sion that de­cided ev­ery­thing Fri­day night, with Mi­ami ahead by one point, the Heat forced the ball out of James’ hands by ba­si­cally send­ing three de­fend­ers at him as he drove down the right side of the lane.

He found Green alone atop the key; Green’s shot was well short, and the Heat closed it out with a pair of free throws.

“It was a lit­tle bit of luck that Danny Green missed that shot at the top of the key,” But­ler said.

Game 6 is tonight.

“We got a hell of a look to win the game, to win the series,” James said. “It didn’t go down.”

Dun­can Robin­son had 26 points for Mi­ami, which used seven play­ers. Ken­drick Nunn had 14 points, Bam Ade­bayo 13, Tyler Herro 12 and Jae Crow­der 11. The sev­enth player, An­dre Iguo­dala, didn’t score.

An­thony Davis — play­ing through a bruised heel — scored 28 points, and Ken­tavi­ous Cald­well-Pope had 16 for the Lak­ers.

Los An­ge­les broke out all the stops: Davis had shiny gold sneak­ers on, the

hue sim­i­lar to the Larry O’Brien Tro­phy, and the team made the de­ci­sion ear­lier in the week to skip on the sched­uled pur­ple uni­forms and wear the black ones de­signed and in­spired by Kobe Bryant in­stead.

They were 4-0 in those uni­forms. They’re 4-1now.

But Bryant would have loved this fight. Drama, all the way to the end.

Robin­son’s 3-pointer with 3:13 left

put Mi­ami up by two, start­ing a stretch where the next nine scor­ing pos­ses­sions from ei­ther side re­sulted in a tie or a lead change.

Back and forth they went. But­ler got fouled with 46.7 sec­onds left, then slumped over the base­line video boards, clearly ex­hausted. He made both foul shots for a one-point lead; Davis’ put­back with 21.8 sec­onds left got the Lak­ers back on top.

“We were very close,” Lak­ers coach Frank Vo­gel said. “I felt two bad calls at the end put But­ler to the line, you know, and that’s un­for­tu­nate in a game of this mag­ni­tude.”

Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra used his last time­out af­ter Davis’ go-ahead score, just to buy But­ler a cou­ple min­utes of rest. But­ler drove the lane, drew con­tact and made both with16.8 sec­onds left for a109-108 lead.

“Ev­ery young player com­ing into this league should study footage on Jimmy But­ler, the def­i­ni­tion of a two-way player com­pet­ing on both ends, five steals, and then mak­ing those big plays down the stretch for us of­fen­sively,” Spoel­stra said.

Thanks to But­ler, who played all but 38 sec­onds, they es­caped. The sea­son con­tin­ues.

“This is the po­si­tion that we’re in and we like it this way,” But­ler said. “And we’ve got two more to get.”

By the num­bers

Heat: Point guard Go­ran Dragic (torn left plan­tar fas­cia) missed his fourth con­sec­u­tive game. He was hurt in the first half of Game1. “I pray, I hope, that we get 7 back,” But­ler said. ... But­ler had 22 points in the first half, the sec­ond-most in Heat fi­nals his­tory. Dwyane Wade had 24 at half­time of Game 4 of the 2006 fi­nals. ... Robin­son made seven 3-point­ers.

Lak­ers: James and Davis were a com­bined 24 for 36. The rest of the Lak­ers were 14 for 46. ... It was play­off game No. 259 for James, ty­ing Derek Fisher, who spent most of his ca­reer with the Lak­ers, for the most in NBA play­off his­tory. The Lak­ers’ re­serves shot 5 for 22.

In good com­pany

But­ler be­came the sixth player in NBA Fi­nals his­tory with mul­ti­ple triple-dou­bles in the same ti­tle series: Magic Johnson and James have done it three times, while Larry Bird, Wilt Cham­ber­lain and Dray­mond Green have done it once.

“He’s been as close to per­fect as you pos­si­bly can get,” Ade­bayo said.


Mi­ami’s Jimmy But­ler, left, and Los An­ge­les’ Le­Bron James were both mas­ter­ful in Game 5 of the NBA Fi­nals. But­ler had 35 points, 12 re­bounds and 11 as­sists, while James had 40 points, 13 re­bounds and seven as­sists.

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