Survive or Celebrate – the stakes are the same for the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers heading into Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Sunday less than 48 hours after Miami’s mesmerizing triumph.
Energy, adjustments and possible injuries – especially to Lakers superstar Anthony Davis – will be crucial as the Lakers once again try to clinch the 17th NBA title in franchise history and their first since 2010.
Champagne was on ice and the confetti machines were ready to spit out purple and gold Lakers on Friday, but Jimmy Butler and the Heat put the celebrations on hold with a 111-108 win in the NBA quarantine bubble at Orlando.
They withstood a 40-point performance from LeBron James to do so, and still lag 3-2 in the best of seven series.
“It’s win or win for us,” Butler said. “We like it like that. ”
Despite Butler’s 35-point triple-double – not to mention the 26 points for undrafted second-year forward Duncan Robinson who included seven three-pointers – the Lakers had a chance to seal a victory late.
With seven seconds remaining, James, overwhelmed by Miami defenders under the basket, threw the ball to a wide open Danny Green at the top of the arc.
Green’s three-point attempt slammed on the rim, the rebound fell on Lakers reserve Markieff Morris, who quickly threw the ball away.
“It’s a tough loss,” admitted Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who believed two bad calls put Butler on the foul line for crucial late free throws, calling him “unhappy in a game of this magnitude. “.
But Vogel was convinced that there would be no emotional disappointment in Game 6.
“Our group is doing fine,” he said, although physical recovery may be more of an issue.
Davis vowed he would be “fine” for Game 6 after worsening a pain in his right heel late in the first quarter on Friday, his obvious pain sending a chill down the spines of Lakers loyalists.
He stayed in the game, scoring 28 points and lowering 12 rebounds with three blocked shots, but his mobility was clearly affected late.
“He’s a warrior,” James said, adding that even a limited Davis was a valuable asset.
“Just being there, hampered, gives me a lot more confidence in myself and our team. ”
James and Davis need more help from their supporting cast, however, and the Lakers know it. James now has 10 playoff losses in which he scored 40 points – second behind Michael Jordan’s 12.
“He comes in at the big times,” Lakers goaltender Alex Caruso said of James. “It’s a shame we couldn’t make one more play for him, either defensively or offensively to help him because he was giving everything he had. ”
The heat, meanwhile, only increases confidence. Butler is the driving force, but even with top guard Goran Dragic sidelined with a torn plantar fascia in Game 1, Butler is not a one-man squad.
The Heat’s five starters scored at least 11 points on Friday and Kendrick Nunn added 14 on the bench.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra compared Robinson, Nunn and rookie Tyler Herro to “sticks of dynamite.”
“They can leave at any time,” he says.
Can they explode the Lakers’ title aspirations? It will be hard.
Only one team came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals – the Cleveland Cavaliers under James in 2016.
“I think it will be even more difficult for us the next game,” said Butler. “But I like our chances. “
© 2020 AFP