Down 3-1 in the series, the Miami Heat were on the brink of elimination but they proved they aren’t going anywhere just yet.
What. A. Game. Miami tried to convince you: They weren’t going away. “We don’t give a shit what everybody else thinks,” Erik Spoelstra said this week. “If you want something badly enough, you figure it out.” The Heat wanted this one. Badly. Jimmy Butler posted 35 points, 12-rebounds and 11 assists in 47 minutes. Duncan Robinson scored 26 points, powered by seven three-pointers. Kendrick Nunn, part of Spoelstra’s seven-man rotation, scored 14 points.
Miami had several chances to fold. The Lakers erased a double-digit fourth quarter deficit to squeeze out a three-point lead midway through the period. A Robinson three-pointer and back-to-back buckets by Butler gave the Heat the lead back. In the final minutes, James and Butler staged an electric duel, with Butler getting the best of it by closing the game with four critical free throws.
Miami had every reason to fold. They had been in the bubble for more than 100 days. They were down 3-1. They were up against arguably the greatest player in NBA history in James, who was having a monster series. Instead, they did what they said they would. They dug deep, got a win, and made this a series again.
Danny Green had his moment. It’s been a rough Finals for Green, the veteran two-guard who is one of the few non-LeBron Lakers with championship experience. Green has posted some dreadful shooting games (1-8 in Game 2, 0-6 in Game 3) but in the closing seconds, Green had an opportunity to wash it all away. On L.A.’s final full possession, Miami’s defense collapsed on a driving James, who found Green at the top of the key—without a Heat defender within 15 feet of him. Green’s three was well short. Green was one of the Lakers more high profile offseason signings, when L.A. was frantically filling out its roster after the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes ended. He was brought in because he had a reputation for making shots like that. On Friday, and during much of these playoffs, Green has struggled to live up to it.
All eyes on AD. Anthony Davis had a huge putback with 21 seconds left that gave the Lakers a one-point lead. But for much of the final minutes, Davis was little more than a decoy. He reaggravated a right heel injury in the first half—which had to be a relief for the Lakers, after seeing Davis hopping around grabbing at his Achilles area—and in the fourth quarter tweaked his left ankle. The ankle injury hobbled Davis, who noticeably limped in the final few minutes. With Game 6 scheduled for Sunday, it will be worth watching how Davis recovers—and how limited he might be, if at all, in another potential clincher.