Column: Lakers had a shot to win it all in Game 5, but now they may have problems
Danny Green was wide open.
He was wide open at the precise spot that Robert Horry stood against Sacramento in 2002.
He was wide open with a chance to do what Anthony Davis did to Denver a couple of weeks ago.
Wearing his Black Mamba uniform, Green had a chance to go all Kobe Bryant on the Miami Heat on Friday night, needing to sink an open three-pointer from the top of the arc with seven seconds remaining to give the Lakers their 17th NBA championship.
It would have been the continuation of a dream.
It was, instead, the potential beginning of a nightmare.
The Heat prevail behind another stellar effort by Jimmy Butler, as LeBron James and the Lakers fail to close out the NBA Finals, which they lead 3-2.
The shot went clank, the Lakers went clunk, and now a lock has gone loopy and the NBA Finals have gone crazy.
“We got a hell of a look to win the game, to win the series,” said LeBron James, plainly. “Didn’t go down.”
Expected to close out the Heat, the Lakers were shut down. Planning a victory celebration, the Lakers wound up in a pity party. Hoping for a fifth victory in five games while wearing the Bryant-designed uniforms, they were undressed.
The Heat snatched away Game 5 with a 111-108 victory near Orlando, Fla., that shortens the Lakers’ lead to three games to two while cutting their swagger clearly in half.
“It’s a tough loss, there’s no doubt about it,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We were very close.”
The Lakers suddenly have to question their ability to finish against an outmanned Heat team that just will not disappear. They led three times in the last two minutes but blew that lead each time, eventually committing six turnovers in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers lost their first chance to clinch the franchise’s 17th NBA championship with a 111-108 oss to the Miami Heat on Friday night in Orlando, Fla.
“One thing about this team that we are playing, they make you pay for every mistake,” James said.
The Lakers suddenly have to worry that they have nobody to guard Duncan Robinson, the Heat guard who was unstoppable deep, connecting on seven three-pointers with few defenders around him.
“We’ve got to be better,” James said. “We’ve just got to be better in Game 6 and close the series.”
And more than anything, the Lakers have to worry about Anthony Davis, who re-injured a sore right heel at the end of the first quarter and was limping by the game’s end. Davis finished with 28 points, but he slowed as the game proceeded, and seemed stuck to the floor during the Lakers’ final chance.
Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler shows his talent and grit as he wills his team to a 111-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
After Green missed his shot, Markieff Morris grabbed a long rebound and flung it inside toward Davis. But the pass was wildly high, and Davis never made a move to grab it.
“Re-aggravated it,” Davis said of his injury. “But I’ll be fine on Sunday.”
Better hope so. The final plays were symbolic of a night when a breathtaking battle between two superstars — James against Jimmy Butler — was decided by the sidekicks. These Finals may indeed be decided by the sidekicks, and the Heat just have more of them.
James scored 40 points, including a dozen in the fourth quarter when he continually drove hard to the basket as if he wasn’t going to let the Lakers lose. But lose, they did, because Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were the only other Lakers to show up. The remaining six Lakers were eight for 31 with nine turnovers. Their futility was epitomized by Green, who was handed that last shot by James, who was swarmed inside and threw it out.
Stop yourself if you think James should have tried to score. He was blanketed. He had no chance. Forget the misguided narrative that he doesn’t want to take the clutch shots. He has taken nearly every clutch shot in this entire series. Just stop.
“He was ready to take on the whole team, he had two guys on him, a third defender came,” Vogel said of James. “He made the right play, Danny is one of our best shooters, he had a great look, and we live with the results.”
Photos from Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Miami Heat in Orlando, Fla. The Miami Heat won the game, 111-108.
James needed just a little help. It was Green’s job to be there for him. Green was their best look, their only look, the last chance, their best chance, a blown chance.
“I was able to…find one of our shooters at the top of the key for a wide-open three to win a championship,” James said. “I trusted him, we trusted him, and it just didn’t go. You live with that.”
Butler, meanwhile, scored 35 bruising points for the Heat, almost matching James basket for basket down the stretch. The difference was, he had plenty of help. Led by Robinson’s heroics, five other Heat players scored in double figures, with four of them throwing in points in the fourth quarter.
The Heat, who used only seven players, once again outhustled the Lakers for most of the game, finishing with just one fewer second-chance point while seemingly attacking every loose ball. Earlier in this series this energy was mostly overpowered by the Lakers’ superior ability. Not anymore. The Lakers can no longer afford to talent their way to a championship. They’re going to have to fight for it.
“I don’t think they are the aggressor,” Vogel protested. “I think we are the aggressor every bit as much.”
Nightmare looming. Time for them to prove it.
Plaschke reported from Los Angeles.
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