The moment all Lakers fans have been waiting for has arrived. After a decades absence from hoisting the Larry O’Brian trophy as a result of a classic seven game series with the Celtics, Los Angeles is now just one win away from securing the franchise’s 17th NBA championship. That would tie the Boston Celtics for most championships won in a franchise, but Laker fans know this year’s title would stand out from the rest. From the season starting with controversy in China to Kobe Bryant’s tragic death to now hosting the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs in a bubble in Orlando, the mental, physical, and emotional strain placed on the entire NBA shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The Miami Heat are the only thing standing in the way of the Lakers deeming this season as a success tonight. Still without Goran Dragic, the Heat would need another near-perfect night from Jimmy Butler that’s complemented with lethal shooting displays from both Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. The Heat need a near record-setting display from downtown to not only run the score up, but to force the Lakers to match their shots and take more shots from distance.
Miami were fortunate to be up early in the contest as Jimmy Butler found Duncan Robinson wide open for a corner three to give the Heat an early 11-7 advantage. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took the ball to the rim with authority on the next play and converted the and-one opportunity to cut the lead to 1. The Lakers had no intention of letting Miami feel good about any sort of lead, so it was imperative that the Lakers had a response for the majority of Miami’s spurts. Anthony Davis was able to beat his offense going for the Lakers as the first seven minutes of the game translated to six points including a wonderful step-back jumper to force Eric Spoelstra into taking a timeout with an 18-13 Lakers lead. Kendrick Nunn, one of Miami’s rookies, knocked down a straightaway three with 3:10 left in the first quarter to cap off an efficient 7-0 run in 51 seconds to take a 20-18 lead. Anthony Davis headed back to the locker room after a foot injury sustained with less than a minute left in the game, but after the timeout, Davis was able to make his way to the bench with his own power. Still, the first quarter was a positive for the Miami Heat as they headed into the second quarter with a 25-24 advantage.
Miami opened the second quarter with six straight points capped by a Bam Adebayo dunk to extend the lead to 31-24. LeBron James wasted no time on the following possession and knocked down his first three of the game to cut the lead to four. Miami were relentless from the field as they shot 57% thus far and forced yet another Los Angeles timeout as a 36-27 deficit was looming for the Lakers (who wore their Black Mamba jerseys). Within a flash, Miami saw themselves up 41-30 with five minutes gone in the second quarter as the Lakers were lazy and lacked creativity on the offensive end while Miami got everything they wanted in the paint or from downtown. Miami were forced to take a timeout as the three’s kept coming for LeBron who already had three made on four attempts to bring the score to 42-36. LeBron only kept up his offensive output as he already had 21 points in the first half to help lead the Lakers back into the game with a 50-47 deficit with two minutes left in the half.
The second half started with a blitz of three pointers from both teams as Duncan Robinson and Jea Crowder supplied the offense for Miami while KCP, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James stuck in three pointers for LA. This continued for the entire quarter. Jimmy Butler was sensational when it came to second chance points has he was able to find Duncan Robinson twice for three’s in the space of two minutes to get Miami up by as many as eight points. Still, one mustn’t forget the impact LeBron James continues to have on teams in the finals. He was up to 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists with four minutes left in the game, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jimmy Butler’s 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists that allowed Miami to keep their heads above water. After yet another LeBron three and a driving layup from Kuzma, Spoelstra had to call a timeout to iron out the wrinkles as their lead shrunk down to one point. Miami were again proving that they rise up to the occasion as Bam Adebayo’s dunk ended the third period with a 88-82 lead with 12 minutes left in this win or go home situation for the Heat.
Duncan Robinson has to be one of the greatest three point shooting undrafted rookies. He was able to get the scoring going for Miami with yet another three to push his total to 23 points and push the Heat lead to nine. The Lakers weren’t done just yet as a Danny Green three pointer and a pair of freehrows from Anthony Davis cut the lead to three points with eight minutes remaining. This game was showcasing a little bit of everything as the scoreline suggested this game would come down to the wire. With 6:18 remaining in the game, the Lakers took their first lead of the game since the first quarter after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knocked down a corner three to give Los Angeles a slight 97-96 lead. Still, Miami wouldn’t go away as Duncan Robinson made yet another three pointer to give Miami a two point lead once more. A pair of LeBron James free throws tied the game at 101 as there was just 2:52 left in the ball game. After Jimmy Butler tied the game with a cold-blooded jump shot, LeBron went the other way and completed a three point play after a converted layup. A series of haymakers from Jimmy Butler and LeBron kept the game within one possession as the game clock was left to just seconds rather than minutes. It was Anthony Davis who was in perfect position to grab an offensive rebound from a missed three by KCP and put the ball back in the hole to give the Lakers a 108-107 lead with 21.8 seconds remaining. Two clutch free throws by Jimmy Butler put Miami up by one point with 16.8 seconds remaining as the Lakers took a timeout to draw up a play to potentially win the NBA championship. The Miami Heat did a great job defensively and forced a turnover from Markieff Morris to force a Game 6 on October 11th in this best of seven game series.