For many, Game 5 of the 2020 served merely as the preceding formality to a coronation. Whether they like to admit it, it seems the Lakers had one eye on the Larry O’Brien trophy. Wearing special shoes and talk of the honor of winning for Kobe is a clear giveaway that there were thoughts that the end of the NBA Finals would soon be at hand. Media members of the Lebron James Fanboy Association were preparing their talking points to spread to the masses of how James is now the greatest player ever.
Unfortunately for all of them, the Miami Heat did not get that memorandum that the Finals were over. Jimmy Butler turned in another brilliant performance , notching his second triple-double of the series with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to once again lead Miami to a season-saving 111-108 victory. Butler did something that rarely happens this side of Kevin Durant: out-dueled Lebron James, particularly down the stretch, as he matched James shot-for-shot and knocked down absolutely critical free throws in the waning minutes.
With each passing game and every tightly contested minute, it is becoming more evident that the Heat are not mere foils but true foes in this series. Though it seems the Lakers are the better team there should be real concern. Lebron James scores 40 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 7 assists on 15-21 shooting and Anthony Davis had a blink-and-you-miss-it 28 points and 12 rebounds and yet this was not enough to put the Heat away. Lebron is one of the best to ever lace them and Davis is a top 5 player so more big performances from one or both are certainly a very real and distinctive possibility but that is not the issue. However when a team does not take care if business when the opportunity presents itself and not taken advantage of the potential is opened up for calamity to enter the equation. In this case that would be the heel injury, which was initially suffered earlier in the playoffs, of Anthony Davis that seemed to have reared its ugly head, er foot, in game 5. AD had indicated that he would play in game 6.
“[Andre Iguodala] stepped on it, re-aggravated it. But I’ll be fine on Sunday. It happened in the last series against Denver, Game 5 if I’m not mistaken. Iggy just re-aggravated it. Went out the end of the first and it just wore off and got back to normal. Just kept moving around, just trying not to sit down. Get that adrenaline going and I was able to keep going and keep playing.”
Finally I must discuss the “controversy” surrounding the end of game 5 with Lebron making the pass to Danny Green. A lot of people, including current NBA players, called Lebron out for making the pass instead of taking the shot. As a basketball player I don’t take issue with the decision , there are three defenders around you, meaning two people are open; that is basketball 101. Let us also not go unnoticed that Lebron has made similar decisions in like situations. One only needs to look back at the end of game 1 of the 2018 Finals when James when facing multiple defenders, he made the pass to an open George Hill, a play that I had no problem with, as again, it was basic basketball. Besides as a hard dribble into a pull up J is something that has never really been in James, repertoire, it was either going to be a pass or a drive all the way to the basketball.
Additional issues are the manufactured “G.O.A.T.” conversation and the pathological obsession with the superstar taking the last shot. Lebron’s detractors will use this simply as another opportunity to castigate him and point out how superstar player x would not have done that , when true superstars do whatever their team needs in order to win.