NBA Finals 2020: Intensity rises for Lakers and Heat as Game 6 looms

The intensity level is rising for the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat as Game 6 of the NBA Finals looms.

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The Lakers’ Anthony Davis and Miami’s Jae Crowder both ended up on the floor midway through the third quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

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As Davis scrambled to get back to his feet, his right elbow swung out toward Crowder’s face. Crowder wasnt fazed.

The moment epitomised how Friday night’s Game 5 went.

The Los Angeles Lakers, even when they got within a few seconds of winning a championship, couldn’t knock out the Miami Heat. LeBron James was brilliant for the Lakers with 40 points, Jimmy Butler was as brilliant if not more so for the Heat with a 35-point triple-double, and Miami survived to send the title series to Game 6 in the early hours of Monday morning (12:15am), live on Sky Sports Arena.


“We ain’t backing down,” Butler said. “We ain’t shying away.”

Everything still favours the Lakers. They lead the series 3-2. James hasn’t been part of losing two potential close-out games in the same series since 2006, his first postseason year. The Heat still don’t have starting point guard Goran Dragic because of a foot injury, a torn left plantar fascia.

They are undeterred.

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“Everybody counted us out since the beginning of the playoffs,” Heat rookie guard Tyler Herro said. “We don’t really care what people have to say.”

Miami kept finding ways in Game 5 to keep the series – and their season – alive, then caught a break in the final seconds when Lakers guard Danny Green missed a wide-open three-pointer that could have delivered the NBA title and Markieff Morris threw the ball away after the offensive rebound.

The Heat have talked since the NBA Finals started about a need to play almost perfect basketball against the Lakers. And now James, who has spoken with great respect for his former franchise throughout the series, indicated that the Lakers might be feeling a similar way.

“One thing about this team that we are playing, they make you pay for every mistake,” James said after Game 5. “It is the same as when I was playing against Golden State all those years, you make a mistake, they make you pay. So, we have to understand that.”

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James is about to set the record for NBA playoff game appearances. He is already the leading scorer in playoff history. Has the most wins. The most steals. Most shot attempts. Most free throws taken.

Here is a record he didn’t want.

For as great as he is, James still needs help. Nobody has had more 40-point NBA Finals games in a loss than he has – the record-setting fifth entry on that list coming in Miami’s 111-108 Game 5 win. In fact, James’ last three 40-point finals efforts, two against the Warriors in 2017 and 2018 and now the one against Miami in Game 5, all ended up as losses.

“He steps up in big moments,” Lakers guard Alex Caruso said. “It is unfortunate that we couldn’t make one more play for him either defensively or offensively to help him out, because he was giving it his all.”

His all wasn’t enough.

The Lakers have a clear big two in James and Davis, who combined for 68 points Game 5. The Lakers had been 14-1 when they each scored 28 or more in the same game; 5-0 when they combined for at least 68 points.

The Heat staved off elimination by playing seven players and getting balance. Butler had a 35-point triple-double to lead the way, five of the other six Miami players scored in double figures led by Duncan Robinson’s 26.

For his four years in Miami, James helped make the Heat better. He is doing the same now – with the Heat knowing it will take everything to claim this championship.

“We have a goal: we are fighting for a title,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That is what it is going to require and our guys have an understanding. Through the first two games of this series we realised, ‘Alright, this is a different level, we are going to have to get to a higher level’.

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“Our guys are extremely competitive, so this level of play that the Lakers have brought is bringing out something different.”

The Lakers had a three-point lead midway through the final quarter of Game 5 and let it get away. They led by one after a basket by Davis with 21.8 seconds left and were one defensive stop from winning the title; Davis ended up fouling Butler, a call the Lakers said shouldnt have been made.

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The NBA disagreed on Saturday, saying Butler was fouled on the play.

“We are motivated to win Game 6 and they are motivated to win Game 6,” Davis said. “It is not going to be easy, but we expect to win.”

Watch Los Angeles Lakers @ Miami Heat Game 6 live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Monday morning (12:15am)

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