The stage was set for a Los Angeles Lakers title coronation in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat had other ideas.
With another huge triple-double, Butler extended the Finals at least one more game, guiding the Heat to a 111-108 win that cut the Lakers' series lead to 3-2. Heading into Game 6 on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the Heat now have a chance to extend the series to an improbable seventh game.
Butler has Miami feeling as confident as ever.
"It was a hard-fought game, I think it's going to be even harder for us next game," Butler said. "But I like our chances."
STAND TALL: Butler, Heat not backing down from Lakers in comeback bid
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3-BALL: Robinson finally breaks out, shows Lakers how deadly he can be
The Lakers are not panicking after the loss, but there is cause for some concern. All-NBA forward Anthony Davis aggravated a right heel injury early in Game 5. Though he said he'll be "fine" and is listed as probable for Sunday, Davis was clearly hampered by the injury for much of Game 5.
"He's a warrior, man. Being out there hobbled, it brings a lot more confidence to myself and our team," said LeBron James.
LeBron James is averaging 30.2 points in the NBA Finals, while Jimmy Butler is averaging 29. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
Can the Lakers finally close out the Heat and claim the title? Or will Miami force a decisive Game 7? Here are three keys to watch in Game 6:
James and Butler have gone toe-to-toe through five games, turning the series into a duel for the ages. James is averaging 30.2 points per game on 57.9% shooting, while Butler is averaging 29 points on 55.8% shooting. They went back and forth down the stretch in Game 5, trading huge shot for huge shot. Expect the pair to be the go-to scorers for their teams again in Game 6. Who has the bigger performance could go a long way to determining which team gets the win Sunday.
Davis insists he will be ready Sunday after aggravating a right heel contusion in Game 5. He said he sustained the injury during the Western Conference finals and has played through pain ever since, but he appeared noticeably uncomfortable in the second half Friday. Davis can still have a huge impact on the game despite the injury, but if he is severely hindered, it could give the Heat the window they need, especially if Davis has trouble guarding Butler in crunch time.
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After struggling for much of the series, Duncan Robinson broke out for the Heat in Game 5 with 26 points and seven 3s. Kendrick Nunn chipped in 14 big points off the bench after scoring 10 combined in the previous two games. Conversely, the Lakers' role players struggled. Lakers other than James and Davis shot 30.4% (14-of-46) in Game 5. The supporting casts will be a huge factor in Game 6. The role players that supplement their star best will likely swing the outcome in their favor.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.
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