NBA Finals made Jimmy Butler a superstar says Cagers coach Gonzalez

With Miami's season on the line, Jimmy Butler gave his all in Game 5. Andrew Bernstein/NBAE
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—With 46.8 seconds left in Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, Heat star Jimmy Butler was seen huffing and puffing after a foul while going for a layup.

With his main man too tired already, Coach Erik Spoelstra called for a timeout to get Butler back to his feet.

But when it mattered the most, Butler contributed.

Butler, exhausted and all, buried four straight free throws that helped the Heat beat the Lakers, 111-108, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando on Saturday (Philippine Time).

The swingman's gallant fight, which saw him playing for all but 49 seconds of the game, received a lot of praises from Heat and Laker fans alike as he helped Miami escape elimination at least for one game.

For Coach Louie Gonzalez, Butler's Game 5 performance, in which he had 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, five steals, and one block, as well as his Finals stint in general so far just cemented his status as a bonafide NBA sensation.

"In this series, ginawang superstar si Jimmy Butler," the newly minted Muntinlupa Cagers gaffer said later in the day in the Sports On Air podcast.

Five matches in, the 31-year-old Butler averages 29.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 10.2 assists, 2.6 steals, and 0.8 block for Miami in the finals while playing 42.7 minutes per game. He leads the team in the said stats.

"This guy has literally carried the team on his shoulders," added Coach Mike Perez.

The secret of Butler staying in his zone despite the fatigue, according to Perez, lies in Miami's president, Pat Riley.

"Ever since he got into Miami, talagang culture of conditioning sila," Perez said of the legendary coach, who led the Heat to the 2006 title.

Riley was also responsible for bringing in the Filipino-American Spoelstra, who would give the franchise two more rings.

Meanwhile, if San Miguel assistant coach Dayong Mendoza is to be asked, the Heat should still go all in with their seven-man rotation despite fatigue setting in on Butler.

"In all my winning years, short rotation talaga kung dikdikan," Mendoza said.

Both the Heat and the Lakers will meet one more time on Monday (Philippine Time) in Game 6 of the championship series.

The Lakers have another chance to close out the series, while the Heat need another win to send the best-of-seven series to a deciding match on Wednesday (Philippine Time).

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