LeBron James had a chance to give the Los Angeles Lakers a lead with less than 10 seconds remaining in Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals. The score? 109-108. The Miami Heat had the lead. LeBron drove into the paint and was met with a swarm of Heat defenders, ready to do anything to contest the shot with their season on the line.
LeBron passed it out to Danny Green, wide-open at the top of the key. The shot went up, and with it the Lakers' hopes to finish their quest and win a championship. And... it clanged off the front of the rim. Short. The Lakers' chance to win the game evaporated just like that. The Heat hit a pair of free throws, and the world was granted a Game 6.
After the game, LeBron was asked why he passed to Green when he had an opportunity to score what may have been a title-winning bucket, even if it was a very low-percentage response. His response was simple: he trusted Danny Green.
On a personal note, I am extremely pleased this sequence did not take place during the middle of the week. Because LeBron choosing to pass in that spot instead of tossing up a floater while triple-teamed would have been the fodder for every inane argument in every studio show you can think of. I grow nauseous at the thought of what Skip Bayless would be spewing if it were Wednesday. Blessedly, it is Saturday, an off day for even the hardest-working sports media folks.
Anyway, whether or not the Lakers win, this will be a play people talk about for a long time. It was the quintessential LeBron James play. He had 40 points and was blistering hot from three-point land. He drove to the paint, drew the attention of the entire defense, and found the wide-open guy with a picture-perfect pass. It just didn't go in this time.
Green has not exactly been a dead-eye shooter while in the playoffs this year, shooting only 33 percent from deep. But here's why LeBron had every right to trust him (other than the obvious fact that The King has forgotten more about basketball than people like me could ever hope to learn): Green hit almost the exact same shot, in a clutch situation, just last round.
The Lakers were up 103-99 over the Denver Nuggets with four minutes left to play in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. A Finals berth was on the line. LeBron drove the lane off a double pick by Green and Anthony Davis. He found Green wide-open, again, at the top of the key. He dished it. Green sunk it. And that was, essentially, the end of the Nuggets in the bubble.
Yes, I am aware that hitting a three-pointer with four minutes left in the WCF is not exactly the same thing as a go-ahead three-pointer with less than ten seconds remaining in the NBA Finals with a title hanging in the balance. But that right there is why LeBron trusted his teammate. He's done it before. He can do it again.
This time, he didn't. He very well might next time. Such is the beauty of basketball. But LeBron didn't make the wrong decision by passing the ball this time.