October 10, 2020 | 5:30am
With guard Goran Dragic still hurt, and just a few empty possessions separating them from elimination, the Heat desperately needed somebody — anybody — to step up Friday night and help Jimmy Butler.
What they got was Duncan Robinson.
The undrafted second-year pro erupted for 26 points, and helped spark a 111-108 Game 5 win over the Lakers in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It was a breakout nobody could have seen coming.
“No, none of us really know. We just know his makeup, his character, he’s going to continue to work his routes,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I thought he was just so persistent and their level of physicality on him as well is nothing like the regular season or nothing like the first three rounds.
“He just dusts himself off, continues to run his routes with great force, he broke free a few times and he didn’t break free a few times and still was able to put some pressure on them. But look, not only him but [Kendrick] Nunn and Tyler [Herro], they’re like sticks of dynamite, they can go off at any time and we needed that.”
They needed it desperately with Dragic out since Game 1, and Bam Adebayo off his game since returning from a neck injury in Game 4. Robinson came up big, with his six fourth-quarter points second only to Butler and LeBron James, and his plus-6 in the final period best on the Heat.
“We keep forcing him to shoot it and sometimes he gets caught in an awkward situation, do I pass or shoot? And we always tell him shoot first and then pass later,” Adebayo said. “So we’re just going to keep doing that and he keeps hitting shots, keeps making the shots that he’s shooting and just keeps building his confidence. That’s big for Dunc, I feel like he’s waking up in this series.”
Butler was utterly dominant again, but needed help. He prodded Robinson to shoot more, getting in the young wing’s ear with some blunt advice. The advice took, and they’ll likely need more of that in Sunday’s Game 6.
“[I told him] to stop running from the basketball,” Butler said. “[You] can’t shoot the ball if you don’t have the ball. I think he gets lost in trying to get other people open, when everybody is going to react to him probably more so than they’re going to react to me. A 3 is worth more than a 2.
“So as long as he’s coming to the ball, shooting the ball when he’s open, when he’s not open, that’s the Duncan Robinson that we need, that we want, because that’s how he’s been playing all year long. And we’re going to need him to be even more aggressive for Game 6.”