The Los Angeles Lakers are one win away from a championship in their N.B.A. finals series against the Miami Heat.
A win would give the Lakers a record-tying 17th championship, but the Heat have shown their resilience and, especially in Jimmy Butler’s case, their relentlessness in the face of daunting odds. But the Lakers’ LeBron James, who is going for his fourth ring, and Anthony Davis, who is going for his first, are motivated to end the series tonight.
Who: Lakers (3-1) vs. Heat (1-3)
When: 9 p.m. Eastern time
Where to watch: ABC
Here’s what you need to know:
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers caught fingers in his eye and elbows in his chest, and that was before his teammate Alex Caruso banged into his legs, both players tumbling like bowling pins. LeBron James made a layup after a fender-bender of his own, then flexed his biceps while flat on his back.
And pity the poor basketball, an innocent bystander that Rajon Rondo spiked off the court at halftime as the Lakers found themselves in another tussle with the Miami Heat.
As the longest, craziest and most challenging season in league history shifts toward a merciful conclusion, the bubble at Walt Disney World has morphed into a cage match for the N.B.A. finals. The Lakers and the Heat are wearing one another down until a champion emerges.
The physical toll of the season — and the series itself — was on display before, during and after the Lakers’ 102-96 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
China Central Television, the state-run TV network, announced Friday that it would televise an N.B.A. game for the first time since a dispute with the league began last fall after a team executive expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The move suggested a softening of tensions between the N.B.A. and China that the league estimated had cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and that elicited criticism from fans and politicians.
The change was to begin with Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on Friday night.
“On the morning of October 10, the channel of CCTV Sports will broadcast the fifth game of the N.B.A. finals,” the network said in a post in Chinese on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. “Welcome everyone to watch at the time!”
Before the season, Marc Stein talked to Butler about his road to stardom in the N.B.A.
Butler has done a lot of changing since his arrival in the N.B.A. as the 30th overall pick of the Chicago Bulls in 2011. He blossomed into a four-time All-Star with a reputation as a hypercompetitive and demanding teammate, unafraid to also challenge coaches, team executives, whomever.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports last season, Butler acknowledged that he could rightly be described as “confrontational.” He has also described himself as “a little extra at times.”
Butler said he does what he wants, despite what people may think of him.
As he prepares to begin his new work life with the Heat, Butler is pushing back harder against those around the N.B.A. who have criticized him for how much he has changed from his early days in the league. Back then, he was known as a coach-pleaser who liked to accentuate his Texas roots by wearing cowboy boots and oversize belt buckles, and listening to country music.
“I like it,” Butler said of the knock that he has changed too much. “I am different. I’ve picked up a lot of different hobbies. I don’t want to stay the same.
“I do what makes me happy. Some people just don’t like it. Some people just don’t want people to be happy.”