Lakers vs. Heat, Finals Game 6: Three Things to Know (10/11/20)
Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the latest the Lakers have needed to go in the playoffs thus far after winning each Western Conference series in five, is set to take place on Sunday night after Miami beat L.A. 111-108 in Game 5. Here are three things to know prior to LAL’s second opportunity to secure a championship:
Among the biggest factors in L.A.’s Game 5 loss were the in-game injuries suffered by star Anthony Davis. It began late in the first quarter, when Miami’s Andre Iguodala made contact with Davis’s bruised right heel.
“Iggy kind of stepped on it,” said Davis after the game. “Re-aggravated it. But I'll be fine on Sunday … It happened in the last series against Denver. I think it was Game 5 if I'm not mistaken. Went out the end of the first and it just kind of 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.
Davis sat for roughly the final minute of the first quarter after that initial scare that had him writhing on the ground in pain, and returned at the 8:30 mark of the second quarter. While LeBron James was carrying the offense with a barrage of buckets, Davis played well, scoring five points with four boards, two assists and a steal. He was also productive in the third quarter, notching nine points with a pair of boards, another steal and an assist.
“Well, if he's on the floor – I mean he's a warrior, man,” said LeBron. “Just him being out there, hobbled, just brings a lot more confidence to myself and our team. We know the nicks and bumps and bruises he's played through throughout the whole season. We have to pick it up for him and pick it up for any one of our brothers if they are hobbling or lobbying or not at their full strength. Just the makeup of our brotherhood.”
After a brief rest, Davis checked into the fourth quarter at the 10:31 mark with L.A. trailing 93-82, and was all over the place as the Lakers ripped off a 17-3 run to take a 99-96 lead at the 5:28 mark. He had a block and four free throws, but most importantly, was disrupting everything Miami wanted to do offensively, most notably keeping Jimmy Butler from getting to his spots.
But then with 4:19 left in the game, and L.A. still up 99-96, Davis crashed in for an offensive rebound of a missed three, and collided with Jae Crowder, who in turn collided with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Not only did Miami get a 4-on-3 break the other way resulting in a layup, but Davis came up hobbling. On the replay, he appeared to turn his left ankle, and he simply wasn’t able to move anywhere close to the same way for the rest of the game.
Miami was able to take full advantage, scoring 15 points in the final 4:09, after they’d managed just eight in the first 7:51. And Butler, able to get space away from Davis, scored eight of the final 10.
L.A.’s offense was able to make do without Davis at 100 percent in part due to how incredible LeBron was playing, and how efficiently he was hitting his shots (more on that below), but the Lakers’ defense was not the same down the stretch. Fortunately, Davis had all day on Saturday, plus Sunday morning and early afternoon, to get as close to 100 percent as possible for Game 6.
LEBRON’S INCREDIBLE DISPLAY
Throughout NBA history, you won’t find many performances as strong as LeBron’s masterful Game 5, in which he hit 15 of 21 FG’s, and 6 of 9 3’s, towards 40 points plus 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in 42 minutes.
It was LeBron’s his fifth Finals game with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds, matching Shaquille O’Neal for most in the history of the NBA. LeBron (35 years, 284 days old) also passed Michael Jordan (35 years, 117 days) as the oldest player to score at least 40 points in an NBA Finals game. His six 3’s were his highest total of this playoff run and his career high in the Finals as well. He did it while tying Derek Fisher for most playoff games in NBA history (259), which he’ll surpass on Sunday.
The thing was, Butler was able to counter LeBron’s historic performance with one of his own, hitting 11 of 19 shots and 12 of 12 free throws towards 35 points with 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals in 47 minutes of action.
“That's the beauty of the game, being able to compete at the highest level,” said LeBron. “You take those opportunities and you live in the moment. You're trying to make plays for your team and be successful on both ends, and we were both just trying to do that and trying to will our team to a victory. You know, he was able to make one more play than I was able to make tonight and come away with a victory.”
“I mean, if you're the best player in the world, you're supposed to be able to do that,” said Butler, who has long maintained that everything in the NBA goes through LeBron. “We keep our head high knowing that he's going to hit some tough ones. That's what really, really, really great players do. But we ain't backing down. We ain't shying away. We can go on the other end and do what we do.I think he had a hell of a performance tonight, along with AD, the whole team. But we're still fighting. We're in it to win it, we're not backing down, we're not scared of nobody.”
With LeBron scoring so masterfully, L.A. did not get a ton of offensive contribution aside from 28 points from Davis, and 16 from KCP, who hit 6 of 15 shots and 3 of 8 threes. The bench in particular struggled, converting only 1 of 11 threes, and totaling just 14 points. The good news for L.A.: it’s unlikely that the bench will again struggle to produce on that end, as they’ll enter the game with a more aggressive approach, determined to carry their weight in Game 6.
VOGEL CONFIDENT AHEAD OF GAME 6
I asked this question to Frank Vogel after Game 5: “How would you summarize all that went into that game, the fight from both teams, how much you wanted it, and the way that you need to find a way to bounce back at this point?”
What I was trying to get to, directly, is how do you bounce back from a tough loss when a win would have delivered a championship?
“Yeah, we'll definitely bounce back,” Vogel responded. “There's no question about that. It's a tough loss. There's no doubt about it. We were very close. I felt two bad calls at the end put Butler to the line, you know, and that's unfortunate in a game of this magnitude. Anthony Davis has a perfect verticality, should be a play on. And the time before that, Markieff Morris has his hands on the ball, that should be a play on. They were given four free throws and made it an uphill battle for us. Very disappointed in that aspect of the game, but our group's fine. We're going to bounce back strong. We'll have a better performance in Game 6, and we've got to play better for the 48 minutes leading up to that last minute.”
"It's an elimination game. We expect their first punch early in the game." - Coach Vogel pic.twitter.com/akMlaWMYz0— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 10, 2020
With a 3-1 lead, wearing the Black Mamba jerseys, and with LeBron playing at such a ridiculous level on offense, Game 5 had almost an inevitability about it. This was the Lakers’ night, right? Well, Miami certainly wasn’t there for that, and they were at least slightly more aggressive. The Lakers definitely played hard, but they weren’t at their defensive peak, and their attention to detail wasn’t quite there, with a number of mistakes to be cleaned up.
For example, the Lakers simply lost Duncan Robinson a few times, giving Miami’s best 3-point shooter more open looks than he’d had to that point in the series. L.A. held him to 30 percent shooting from three in Games 1-4, where he made only eight triples in 26 attempts. But on Friday, he hit 7 of 13 attempts towards 26 points.
“I think we just waited too long to start playing our brand of basketball,” summarized Alex Caruso. “We were just kind of trading punches, going back and forth through the game. We’d get close, make a couple of mistakes, they’d extend it to seven or eight, we’d get close again and then they’d do the same thing. We finally took the lead and were one play short at the end.”
The Lakers had lost only four playoff games prior to Game 5, and won each of the subsequent games:
- Aug. 20 vs. Portland: 111-88
- Sept. 6 vs. Houston: 117-109
- Sept. 24 vs. Denver: 114-108
- Oct. 6 vs. Miami: 102-96
Sunday brings an opportunity to again avenge a loss, and if they do it, they’ll secure the NBA title.
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