Plaschke: Lakers had a shot to win it all in Game 5, but now they may have problems
The Lakers 'guardian Danny Green missed a late three-point shot in front of Miami Heat's Andre Iguodala during the Lakers' 111-108 defeat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Danny Green was wide open.
It was wide open exactly where Robert Horry faced Sacramento in 2002.
He was open and had the chance to do what Anthony Davis did to Denver a few weeks ago.
In his black mamba uniform, Green had the chance to meet all of Kobe Bryant at the Miami Heat on Friday night. With seven seconds to go, he had to sink an open three-pointer from the top of the bow to allow the Lakers their 17th NBA championship.
It would have been the continuation of a dream.
Instead, it was the possible start of a nightmare.
The shot rang, the Lakers rang, and now a lock has gone nuts and the NBA finals went insane.
"We took a damn good look at winning the game, winning the series," said LeBron James clearly. "Didn't go down."
Likely to close the heat, the Lakers were closed. The Lakers planned a victory celebration and ended up in a shame party. They stripped off in hopes of a fifth win in five games while wearing the Bryant-designed uniforms.
The Heat grabbed Game 5 with a 111-108 win near Orlando, Fla., Reducing the Lakers' lead to three to two games while significantly halving their boast.
"It's a heavy loss, there's no doubt about it," said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. "We were very close."
The Lakers suddenly have to question their ability to take on an unmanned heat team that just won't go away. They led three times in the last two minutes but blew each time and ended up making six turnovers in the fourth quarter.
"One thing about this team that we play against is that you pay for every mistake," said James.
The Lakers suddenly have to worry that they have no one to guard Duncan Robinson, the heat protection that was unstoppably deep, connecting seven three-point with few defenders around them.
"We have to get better," said James. "We just have to get better in game 6 and close the series."
And most of all, the Lakers have to worry about Anthony Davis, who injured his right heel again at the end of the first quarter and limps at the end of the game. Davis finished the game on 28 points but slowed down as the game progressed and appeared to be hanging on the ground during the Lakers' last chance.
After Green missed his shot, Markieff Morris grabbed a long ricochet and tossed it at Davis. But the pass was wildly high and Davis never took a step to grab it.
"It made it worse," said Davis of his injury. "But I'll be fine on Sunday."
Hope better. The last few games symbolized a night when the buddies decided a breathtaking battle between two superstars - James versus Jimmy Butler. These finals can indeed be decided by the buddies and the heat just has more of it.
James scored 40 points, including a dozen in the fourth quarter of constantly driving hard to the basket like he wasn't going to let the Lakers lose. But they lost 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 embodied by Green, who received the final shot from James who swarmed in and threw him out.
Stop if you think James should have tried to score. He was covered. He didn't stand a chance. Forget the misguided narrative that he doesn't want to make clutch pockets. He's done almost every clutch shot in this entire series. Just stop.
"He was ready to take over the whole team, he had two boys with him and a third defender came along," Vogel said of James. "He played the right game, Danny is one of our best shooters, he had a great look and we live with the results."
James just needed a little help. It was Green's job to be there for him. Green was her best look, her only look, her last chance, her best chance, a missed opportunity.
"I was able to ... find one of our shooters at the top of the key so a wide open three could win a championship," said James. "I trusted him, we trusted him, and it just didn't work out. You live with it."
Butler, meanwhile, scored 35 bruises for the heat, almost matching James basket after basket on the line. The difference was that he had a lot of help. Led by Robinson's exploits, five more Heat players posted double-digit results, four of which earned points in the fourth quarter.
Using just seven players, The Heat overtook the Lakers again for most of the game, ending with just one point less of the second chance while apparently attacking any loose ball. At the start of this series, that energy was mostly overwhelmed by the Lakers' superior skills. No longer. The Lakers can no longer afford to find their way to a championship. You will have to fight for it.
"I don't think you're the attacker," Vogel protested. "I think we're the attacker as well."
Nightmare looming. Time for her to prove it.
Plaschke reported from Los Angeles.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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