LeBron James and Anthony Davis; the Association’s most dynamic duo still have the Los Angeles Lakers maintaining a slight 3-2 NBA Finals lead over the Miami Heat after they were upended 111-108 in Friday night’s Game 5 matchup. During the final seconds, LeBron James had one last possession down one with Jimmy Butler pestering him just past half court. LeBron sized him up, then drove right as Lakers guard Danny Green came over to set a pick on the left in an attempt to potentially get LeBron a switch onto Heat’s Duncan Robinson. That, or create a seam for James to attack. James saw the seam and drove right and as he gained momentum towards the rim, Robinson came from weak side help as Butler was also prowling applying defensive pressure behind as well.
As LeBron neared the paint where Heat’s Bam Adebayo was waiting for him, he took off one leg and fired a pass to the top of the key where Green was all alone. The pass took a bounce then Green collected himself and rose up for a three-point attempt. The shot was short rimmed and Lakers forward Markieff Morris got the offensive rebound off the long miss. After Morris corralled the miss he panicked and lofted a lousy pass out of bounds near the baseline where there were no Lakers present in the paint. After that, the game was an afterthought. Heat guard, Tyler Herro, hit two ice-breaking free throws to seal it and the game was over.
Jimmy Butler scored 35 points, grabbed 12 boards, and dished out 11 dimes on his way to a grueling victory. Butler also went 12 of 12 from the line and played all but 47 seconds the whole contest. Duncan Robinson, the unsung hero from the perimeter, finally caught fire pouring in 26 points going 7 of 13 from deep. Lebron James ended his night posting a game-high 40 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists on a whopping 71% shooting from the field including 6 for 9 shooting from the three-point line. Anthony Davis, who was not involved in the last play design besides playing decoy, added 28 points and 12 rebounds.
Many people were all over Danny Green for his wide-open miss off the James pass as well as James’ decision to create a shot for someone else in clutch time. For one, it would have been pretty intriguing if the Lakers drew up an isolation play for James who was on fire all game. He does hold the record for most career postseason points and postseason game-winners. James made the right play and Green was wide open so there was no wrongdoing either way. Danny Green does hold the record for most 3s made in a single Finals series with 27 back in 2014, ironically against the LeBron led Miami Heat when he was a part of the San Antonio Spurs. Green also shot 36% from three-point territory in last years’ NBA Finals as a member of the Toronto Raptors, so the stage has never been too big for him. He’s hit big shots in the playoffs his whole career. Nonetheless, the man of the hour was Jimmy Butler, and regardless of the Finals’ outcome Jimmy Buckets is a winner himself.
Butler has stamped his name in NBA history with all these unforgettable performances these playoffs. Butler is currently averaging 29 points, 8.6 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2.6 steals on 56% shooting from the field during this NBA Finals. He has reminded everyone that when the game matters most that he’s undeniably one of the best players on the planet. His will, grit, and effort have brought the Heat this far even with all the injuries suffered and it’s time we put some respect on his name.
Last summer when Jimmy Butler decided to not entertain a max contract extension from the Philadelphia 76ers and opt for a sign and trade with the Miami Heat. Many questioned his desire to win, especially leaving the young talented core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Sixers were just a couple of lucky bounces from eliminating the defending champion Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semis last year. Butler averaged 22 points, seven rebounds, and five assists that series while being a primary defender on Kawhi Leonard. Butler was also handling floor general duties down the stretch of games due to Ben Simmons being handicapped as a complete offensive player during clutch moments. The year prior, as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves with his infamous practice where he was yelling at teammates and reportedly beat the starters in a scrimmage with the third-stringers, was due to bumping heads with Wolves management over practicing even though it was certain Butler was about to be shipped via trade.
On JJ Redick’s Podcast, Butler opened up about the practice stating “So I would keep going into the office talking with management, talking with Thibs, and they would be like, “Hey, you need to come in and practice.” I was like, “Thibs, what I need to come in and practice for? Y’all gonna trade me.” What’s the point of practicing—going in there, getting up and down—and then I’m gonna be gone in a day. ’Cause it was always like: We almost got a deal, we almost got a deal, we almost got a deal.” “We’re literally just talking, and then somebody says: “You’re gonna practice.” Now, first of all, I have a for-real problem with authority. When somebody’s telling me what to do as a grown man, I have a problem with it.” “We play, we win, and I’m yapping. I’m yapping, I’m yapping. I always talk, anyways. If you can’t tell, I’m always talking, talking about how somebody can’t guard me, or nobody can beat me. I do that. That’s what I do. This time it was just a little bit different ’cause of whose team I was on and I ain’t been around, so it was just taken up a notch and it didn’t help who was watching—ownership, management, all of that good stuff.” When news of that practice broke out it created a narrative that you couldn’t win with Jimmy or that he was too hard on his teammates and all of those other false narratives about the five-time all-star that followed him all the way to South Beach.
Butler has resented some of the decisions that even brought more success to his teams in the past and agrees on certain things he would go about differently. For example, when touching upon his request to have ball-handling duties down the stretch during that Eastern Conference Semis vs the Raptors, he agreed that wasn’t exactly the most ideal time to suggest a change. “To this day, I don’t think that that was fair, to switch over like that. Even though I think we played great basketball like that, I don’t think it was fair, because the entire year, Ben had the ball, the entire year, Ben had the ball, so you mean to tell me that in one playoff series you just switch it up like that?” All the narratives about having to “control Jimmy”, “Jimmy being a “selfish teammate” are disqualified especially after this brilliant performance he’s put on all season. Jimmy Butler is never in the conversation for the best player in the world. But truthfully, how many top 10 players can we say can actually duplicate the outstanding play Butler has displayed on the highest level against two of the best players in the world. Name them, I promise you won’t get to ten.
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