The Miami Heat took down the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals 111-108 to force a Game 6 on Sunday and extending the NBA Finals. The game turned into an instant classic, drawing incredible performances by Jimmy Butler and LeBron James as both rosters traded punches.
While the entirety of the game was memorable, the final seconds of Game 5 double-dipped on a portion of crazy to make an outstanding game, a legendary one. Let’s break it down.
The Inbounds -
At the 21.8 second mark, Jae Crowder inbounds to Butler, with James on him. Right away, you appreciate the aggression that the Heat play with, which has won them so many games. Instead of milking the clock, Butler takes advantage of Crowder’s pick, attacking the cup against an out of position Anthony Davis. Then come some clutch free throws from Butler (we’ll get to the free-throw shooting in a moment). In a microcosm, the play is an example of the best version of Miami, an aggressive squad that will out-effort teams.
A comedy of errors -
The time left in the game is 16.8, and Danny Green is inbounding the ball. We know it’s going to LeBron, the Heat knows it’s going to LeBron, everyone knows it is going to LeBron. The inbound goes to, you guessed it, James, with Butler on him. (Side note: Part of the reason this game was so great is not only because of the punches Butler and James were trading offense, but both were guarding each other on defense for large portions of the game in a delightful clash.)
James takes five seconds to get Butler on his hip, then makes the right decision by driving to the rack, drawing three defenders and dishing the ball to the top of the key, hitting a wide-open Green. He shorts it like every one of my putts, sending the ball careening towards Markieff Morris (God only knows why he is out there). He sends it soaring in what can be only generously called Davis’s general direction, throwing the ball out of bounds akin to a quarterback under duress. A very open James watches the ball sail into the empty corner of the gym (I assume thinking, “God, what have you given me?”).
More free throws -
With 2.2 seconds and a 109-108 lead, the Heat inbound the ball to Butler, ha, just kidding, the ball goes to the 20-year-old Tyler Herro for his first free throws of the game. He drills both — highlighting the most cold-blooded charity stripe shooting you could ask for from the Heat. Butler hit everything (12-for-12) despite the exhaustion of 47 minutes played, and the team as a whole went 21-of-22 from the stripe.
The close -
In the final 1.6 seconds, the Heat pull everyone back, preparing for a LeBron heave to try and tie the game. The Heat does a beautiful job not allowing anyone to slip out, forcing a prayer from James at nearly half-court, closing out a wild 21.8 seconds, and winning Game 5.