Butler starts too late, Heat fall in Game 5 after stunning run to NBA Finals

Butler starts too late, Heat fall in Game 5 after stunning run to NBA Finals

Jimmy Butler finally showed up when the Miami Heat needed him most.

It still wasn’t quite in time.

Practically invisible for three quarters, Butler almost single-handedly saved the Heat by finally finding his touch in the fourth.

But after carrying the Heat past the powerful Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics during a stunning run through the Eastern Conference, Butler couldn’t lead them over the Denver Nuggets.

Butler and the Heat watched as confetti fell and the Nuggets celebrated after capturing their first championship with a 94-89 win Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

“Sometimes it’s just not your time,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But what I can tell you, we’re all hard-wired to compete for the ultimate prize.”

Butler scored 13 of his 21 points in the final quarter after struggling most of the night. He had all but five of Miami’s points in the fourth quarter.

“That I turned the ball over. That’s what stood out,” Butler said of the final two minutes, when the Heat made their surge.

His takeaway, though, was how he and a bunch of undrafted players made it all the way to the NBA Finals. And how they came back on the road against Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals after squandering a 3-0 lead. And how they gave the Nuggets all they could handle in 20-year veteran Udonis Haslem’s last game.

“Probably how grateful I am to be able to compete with these guys,” Butler said. “You never know what the team is going to look like next year, the year after that. I’m just grateful. I learned so much. They taught me so much. I wish I could have got it done for these guys because they definitely deserve it.”

“This is a team that a lot of people can relate to — if you ever felt that you were dismissed or felt that you were made to feel less than,” Spoelstra said. “We had a lot of people in our locker room that probably have had that, and there’s probably a lot of people out there that have felt that at some time or another.

In the end, the clock struck midnight in the Mile High City for the Heat, just the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals. Butler, Bam Adebayo (20 points, 12 rebounds) and crew gave it their best shot. They simply ran out of gas.

“I’ll speak for everybody in our locker room and the organization — congratulations to the Denver Nuggets organization,” Spoelstra said. “They are a class act and they are one hell of a basketball team. One hell of a basketball team that we couldn’t really find obviously enough solutions to be able to get us over the top.”

Playing swarming, end-to-end defense, the Heat made things difficult on the Nuggets. They made sure Jamal Murray didn’t have a moment’s peace. They made sure Nikola Jokic had multiple players around him whenever he touched the ball.

Jokic still finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds. His play all series earned him the NBA Finals MVP.

The Heat led by as many as 10 points. They also took an 89-88 lead with 1:58 remaining on Butler’s free throw.

That advantage lasted all of 27 seconds before Bruce Brown put the Nuggets up for good on a layup.

“There’s no regret from our side,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody — staff, players alike — in the locker room put themselves out there and put themselves into the team, whatever was best for the team. And the tough pill to swallow is it just wasn’t good enough. We ran up against a team that was just better than us in this series.”