After losing Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers had a problem named Jimmy Butler. He had just recorded monster triple-doubles in two of the last three games and seemed unstoppable.
Lakers assistant coach Mike Penberthy revealed in an exclusive interview with Lakers Daily that LeBron James asked to guard Butler for the entirety of Game 6 to lock him down.
“Game 6,” said Penberthy. “We sat down. We had a game plan set in place. We sat down to do our usual. We turned on the video. We walked through Miami.
“LeBron says, ‘Coach, I want to guard Jimmy. I want to match his minutes. I feel like I need to match up with him the whole game. I don’t want anybody else to guard him. I want to guard Jimmy Butler.’
“That’s leadership in a nutshell right there. You just basically said, ‘I’m going to be the best player in the game and I’m gonna guard the other team’s best player and that’s what we’re going to do.’
“So, that tells you a little bit about him. He was going in that morning to say, ‘I got Jimmy Butler and I’m going to play 48 minutes if I have to.’
“We didn’t have to play 48 (laughs). The game was over in 24, but that tells you a lot right there.”
When the Lakers missed the playoffs last season, James was seen as a major culprit, partly because his defense was almost non-existent.
However, this season, the four-time champ greatly increased his defensive effort and activity, and it seemed to set the tone.
As a result, the Lakers won the NBA championship thanks to a suffocating team defense, which often led to one of the league’s most dangerous transition offenses.
In Game 6 of the Finals, the Lakers totally shut down the Heat by holding them to a very anemic 93 points. Miami had just 36 points by halftime.
James may not be the defensive force he was several years ago, but he definitely got the job done this past season.