Jimmy Butler had the game of his life with a heroic 40 point, 13 assist and 11 rebound effort to lead the Miami Heat to a 115-104 victory on Sunday over the Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Butler’s triple-double masterpiece was only the third 40-point triple-double in NBA Finals history, after LeBron James and Jerry West. Butler’s scoring outburst came on an efficient 14-20 shooting night, while making 12 of 14 free throws in 46 minutes played. Tyler Herro and Kelly Olynyk added 17 points apiece off the bench. “I think we realized that we belong,” said Butler on the Heat’s performance.
The Heat entered Sunday down 2-0 in the series, making Game 3 a must-win scenario as no team has ever come back from being down 3-0 in any playoff series in NBA history. The Heat were without All-Star Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, the leading scorer in the playoffs for the Heat.
The Lakers have not lost an NBA Finals while being up 2-0 in 20 NBA Finals appearances since 1969. Turnovers were a huge problem for the Lakers as they committed 11 in the first quarter and 19 overall.
Three-time Finals MVP LeBron James added 25 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, although he had 6 turnovers. After becoming one of five players in NBA history to score 30 points in each of his first two NBA Finals games, Anthony Davis was plagued by early foul trouble, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Markief Morris and Kyle Kuzma poured in 19 points each.
Miami began the second half on a 10-0 run as they took a 14-point lead in the third quarter. The Heat entered the fourth quarter up 85-80 before the Lakers stormed back with an 8-0 run taking the lead at 91-89 on a Rajon Rondo layup with 8:55 remaining. The Lakers effort fell short as the Heat immediately went on another 8-0 run. Butler put an exclamation point on his historic night by hitting a layup with 1:13 left to give the Heat a 109-100 lead.
When asked about his mindset throughout this game, Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “Win. I don’t care about a triple-double…I want to win. We did that. I’m happy with the outcome.”
Now, one of the biggest questions for the Heat is whether or not Bam Adebayo will be able to return for Game 4. The Lakers were dominant through the first two games and need to regain their mojo if they want to close out the series on the quest for their 17th championship in franchise history.
The Lakers are still favored in the NBA Finals series, up 2-1, but Butler has the heart of a champion and this Heat team has shown they will not go down without a fight.
Game 4 of the series is set for Tuesday.