Miami stayed alive with a win Friday and faces another must-win situation against the Lakers on Sunday night.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler, left, had a triple-double with 35 points in a Game 5 win, while LeBron James scored 40 points for the Lakers in the loss.
Game 6 is Sunday night. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.
— 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. As Davis scrambled to get back to his feet, his right elbow swung out toward Crowder’s face.
Crowder wasn’t fazed.
The moment epitomized how Friday 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 on Sunday.
“We ain’t backing down,” Butler said. “We ain’t shying away.”
Everything still favors 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 most undeterred.
“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 its season – alive, then caught a break in the final seconds when
the Lakers’ Danny Green missed a wide-open 3 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’s 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.”
James is about to set the record for NBA playoff game appearances. He’s already the leading scorer in playoff history. Has the most wins. The most steals. Most shot attempts. Most free throws taken.
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 Friday in Miami’s 111-108 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’s 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. 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 them off by playing seven players and getting balance:
Butler had a 35-point triple-double to lead the way, five of the other six scored in double figures led by Duncan Robinson’s 26.
For his four years in Miami, James helped make the Heat better.
He’s doing the same now – with the Heat knowing it’ll take everything to claim this championship
Well, we have a goal: We’re fighting for a title, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said.
That’s what it’s going to require and our guys have an understanding. Through the first two games of this series we realized, ‘All right, this is a different level, we’re going to have to get to a higher level.’ 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 stop from winning the title; Davis ended up fouling Butler, a call the Lakers said shouldn’t have been made. The NBA disagreed Saturday, saying Butler was fouled on the play.
“We’re motivated to win Game 6 and they are motivated to win Game 6,” Davis said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we expect to win.”
The 2020 NBA Finals Ratings Are Historically Bad. But Why?
Ratings for the NBA finals are at an all-time low. While some have pointed the finger at the boycott by players and a social justice movement as the reason for the decline, it could be a number of factors impacting viewership.
NBA Viewership Setting Records: The NBA finals are seeing 48% less viewers than last year. Through the first three games, the NBA finals averaged 6.71 million viewers. The drop in viewers was -43%, -52% and -56% for the first three games, respectively.
Some thought that a finals series featuring Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat would see better viewership.
The previous record? Game 2 ..”
The previous record before that? Game 1.
(via @RenderAnalytics) pic.twitter.com/WSm6id5fWy
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) October 10, 2020
Other Sports: Viewership for the MLB playoffs is down 39% compared to last season. Early into the NFL season, games are seeing 14% less viewers. The NHL playoffs saw a 25% drop in viewership, including a 61% drop for the Stanley Cup finals.
The Kentucky Derby saw viewership come in at 9.3 million versus an average of around 15 million for its rescheduled September race.
Reasons For The Decline: Nielsen Media Research seems to displace any notion that viewers aren’t tuning in due to the league’s push for social justice.
The audience of the 2020 NBA playoffs is made up of 45% white viewers and 55% non-white viewers. That compares to a 46%/54% respective mix for last year’s NBA playoffs.
The biggest reason for the decline in views could simply be the timing of the season. A typical NBA season is wrapping up its playoffs by June, compared to October this year.
Another contributing factor could be the NBA competing against other sports for viewers. Game 3 of the NBA finals marked the first time a finals game competed head to head with the NFL.
The 2020 presidential election could also be contributing to the decline in viewership. Cable networks like Fox News, MSNBC and CNN are all seeing an increase in primetime viewership. Game 3 was also overshadowed by President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.
Why It’s Important: NBA players boycotted games in August after resuming the season. The NBA had already lost $1 billion from a shortened season and risked losing $1 billion from ending the playoffs early.
Last year’s NBA playoffs generated $932 million in advertising revenue. Disney had stated that they were seeing new advertisers for the resumed season.
Live sports remain one of the key markets for advertisers as they are more cord-cutter proof than shows. The decline in viewership for sports could have an impact on advertising rates going forward.