Return to normalcy: LeBron James dominates, loses NBA Finals game

Lakers star LeBron James vs. Heat in Game 5 of NBA Finals
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron James watched Kentavious Caldwell-Pope lose track of Duncan Robinson and cede an open corner 3-pointer. On the other end, LeBron watched Anthony Davis survey the floor as none of their Lakers teammates got open.

Then, LeBron hit his limit for being uninvolved.

He beckoned for the ball, went behind Davis and collected the pass while standing on the logo… and immediately drilled a 3-pointer.

LeBron (40 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals) did everything he could to put the Lakers on his back, but they lost to the Heat in Game 5 on Friday.

The classic contest featured a classic conclusion: LeBron played a great game in the NBA Finals. LeBron lost a game in the NBA Finals.

LeBron tied Jerry West for most Finals losses in NBA history (33) and surpassed West for most Finals losses while scoring 40 points (five):

Obviously, it’s a tremendous accomplishment for LeBron to make all these NBA Finals – even if he’s losing games once he gets there.

LeBron lost in the 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 Finals. His 2013 and 2016 championships went seven games in the Finals. Only the 2012 title, won in five games over the Thunder, featured a relatively smooth last round.

Miami isn’t going down without a fight, but LeBron matched the intensity brought by the team facing elimination. He’s used to facing stiff competition at this level, after all.

Always taking a huge role, LeBron put even more on his shoulders when Davis temporarily left the game due to injury. LeBron’s 3-point shooting (6-for-9, a career high for made triples in the Finals) was particularly impressive. Many of those 3s came at big moments, when it felt like the game was in the balance.

He just couldn’t do enough.

  • Lakers with LeBron: +7 in 42 minutes
  • Lakers without LeBron: -10 in six minutes

And it’s not as if all his teammates struggled. Davis (28 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks) was particularly impressive.

Those stars didn’t get much help, though.

  • LeBron and Davis: 73% on 2-pointers, 57% on 3-pointers
  • Other Lakers: 36% on 2-pointers, 25% on 3-pointers

The Lakers are still up 3-2. They’ll probably win the series, likely in Game 6 Sunday. If they win the title, this performance will get averaged with the rest and help LeBron’s Finals MVP case.

But for now, it’s yet another bitter pill for LeBron to swallow in the NBA Finals despite everything he did to win.