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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NBA Finals: Jimmy Butler pours cold water on LA Lakers’ party

Jimmy Butler produced a season-saving performance for Miami Heat, who stunned Lakers 111-108 in Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals.

Written by Shashank Nair | Updated: October 11, 2020 1:42:45 pm
nbaJimmy Butler he scored 35 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, had 11 assists and five steals in his second triple-double of these NBA Finals. (Twitter/NBA)

The banners were ready to be unfurled, confetti was on the verge of being showered, the Larry O’Brien championship trophy was shown before the game – the NBA was gearing up for a Lakers celebration.

The Miami Heat were being done a great disservice by most who had counted Pat Riley’s team out before the ball had even been tipped. And yet, Miami’s spirit – outlined by a biblical, season-saving performance by Jimmy Butler – outlasted the overwhelming odds that favoured the LA Lakers, who went down 111-108 in Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals at Disney World, Orlando.

To be like Kobe

The Lakers came out in their special commemorative Black Mamba jerseys – a jersey in which they were undefeated in the NBA postseason. Anthony Davis was wearing Kobe’s shoes. LeBron James was 17 of 18 when it came to closing out a game to end a playoff series. The message was loud and clear – this was the night LA were going to win the title for Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers have done everything right in honouring the memory of Kobe Bryant. And yet, they don’t have sole ownership when it comes to respecting the legacy of the five-time champion and what he stood for. The league is littered with players for whom Bryant was nothing short of a god. The most Kobe-esque player in this series has not been a Laker but Jimmy Butler. The image of a worn-out Butler, slumped over the electronic video board behind the baseline, sweat pouring down with 46.7 seconds remaining in the game and a couple of free-throws to be made, is a shrine to the embodiment of what Bryant stood for. Butler played for 47 minutes and 22 seconds out of a possible 48. In an elimination game, he scored 35 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, had 11 assists and five steals in his second TD of these NBA Finals. The Lakers were outscored 15-9 in clutch time and 11 of those points were made by Butler. The celebration of Bryant’s spirit isn’t and shouldn’t be relegated to the team he played for but in the dogfight that these players are going through to win this championship.

Why did the Lakers lose Game 5?

Lebron James (40 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) and Anthony Davis (28 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks) were a combined 68 points from 24/36 shooting. The rest of the Lakers were a miserly 14/46 on all shots. It’s easy to blame Danny Green for missing a wide open three in the last seconds of the game. But Dwight Howard’s flagrant 1 that led to a six-point possession for Miami or Markieff Morris’ inexplicable pass to no one in the last possession with LeBron James wide open or Kyle Kuzma not making a four-point play – all of the Lakers’ supporting cast faltered around their two giants at some inexcusable moments of the game.

Robinson comes good

In a loaded 2018 NBA Draft, Duncan Robinson went undrafted. Two years later he is in the middle of an NBA Finals series. Robinson dropped seven three-pointers on the Lakers in a 26-point performance, to be the able supporting cast to Jimmy Butler. The start of this series saw him struggle to get his act together, but Butler and Adebayo operating in the paint has allowed the shooter and his quick release to flourish over the past two games. In a must-win Game 5, Robinson was 8-15 from the field and 7-13 from three-point range.

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