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Lakers Miss Closeout Opportunity, Falling To The Miami Heat In Game 5 Of The NBA Finals

The final moments of Game 5 didn't go as planned in the Lakers' 111-108 loss to the Miami Heat.

LeBron James wished the Lakers could have a do over. 

History would've been made. Champagne would've been flying. It would've been their golden ticket out of the NBA bubble after an arduous 100-plus day stay. 

But the final moments of Game 5 didn't go as planned in the Lakers' 111-108 loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. 

With the Lakers down 109-108 and 16.8 seconds left, James penetrated to the basket as all five Heat players collapsed around him. He then passed the ball to a wide open Danny Green. 

Green took one dribble before shooting a three-pointer that clanked off of the front of the rim. Marieff Morris rebounded the ball, but committed a costly turnover, throwing a wild pass attempt to Anthony Davis under the basket that missed him by at least a few feet. 

James wouldn't have done anything differently. It wouldn't have made sense for him to shoot amid an angry swarm of white jerseys. He made the smart play. 

He just wishes things played out in another way. 

"I've always played the game the same way since I was a kid and I've had success doing it," James said. "And I won't let a play here or a play there change my outlook on the game and how I play the game. I mean, if you just look at the play, I was able to draw two defenders below the free-throw line and find one of our shooters at the top of the key for a wide open three to win a championship. I trusted him, we trusted him, and it just didn't go. You live with that. You live with that.

"It's one of the best shots that we could have got, I feel, in that fourth quarter, especially down the stretch with two guys on me, Duncan Robinson and Jimmy [Butler]. And Danny had a hell of a look. It just didn't go down. I know he wish he can have it again. I wish I could make a better pass. You know, but you just live with it."

The Lakers, who entered Friday's game with a 3-1 series advantage, were seemingly moments away from their first championship in 10 years. 

After trailing by as much as 11 points in the fourth quarter, they retook the lead for the first time since the first quarter after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a three-pointer with 6:20 left to give them a 97-96 advantage.

It soon became the James and Butler show, with the two superstars trading baskets from the 2:52 mark until there were 46.7 seconds remaining. There were eight lead changes in the fourth quarter. 

With 21.8 seconds left, Davis made a putback layup to give the Lakers a 108-107 lead. Five seconds later, Butler drew a foul from Davis as he drove to the basket and went on to make both of his free throws. 

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Lakers coach Frank Vogel thought the referees botched that call -- and another one 30 seconds earlier.   

"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," Vogel said. "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."

The Lakers then had a chance to win it. Vogel defended James' decision to pass the ball to Green instead of taking the final shot with the game on the line. 

"He was ready to take on the whole team," Vogel said of James. "He had two guys on him. A third defender came and so with three guys on you, he made the right play. Danny is one of our best shooters, he had a great look. And we live with the results."

The Lakers had a scare late in the first quarter when Davis re-aggravated a right heel contusion that he initially sustained in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. 

Davis rolled around on the floor, clutching his foot. But he walked it off and reentered the game in the second quarter, finishing with 28 points on nine-for-15 shooting, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals.

"Iggy [Andre Iguodala] kind of stepped on it," Davis said. "Re-aggravated it. But I'll be fine on Sunday."

James finished with a game-high 40 points on 15-for-21 shooting, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Butler led the Heat with 35 points on 11-for-19 shooting, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. 

This much is for sure. 

James knows the Lakers need to be more effective and precise in Game 6. 

In fact, the Heat remind him of a team that he met in The Finals four-straight seasons from 2015-2018 when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

A team that won three titles against him.  

"One thing about this team that we are playing, they make you pay for every mistake," he said. "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."