FOR the Miami Heat, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA finals was more than just a crucial victory. It showed they could hold their own in the series, even without two of their most potent playoff producers.
And so, the Heat come in with a renewed sense of confidence as they look to even the best-of-seven showdown in Game 4 on Tuesday night (Wednesday in Manila) at the NBA bubble near Orlando.
Miami dropped its first two against Los Angeles by double-digit margins before responding with a 115-104 win Sunday that swung the momentum in its favor, at least for the time being.
“We’re going to win,” Heat swingman Jimmy Butler said of Game 4. “We’re going to compete. We’re not going to lay down; we’re going to fight back in this thing and even it up 2-2.”
Butler almost singlehandedly led Miami to its triumph Sunday, scoring 40 points to go with 13 assists and 11 rebounds in his first career playoff triple-double. He accomplished the feat while playing 45 minutes for the second consecutive game, as Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (neck/shoulder) remained sidelined by their injuries sustained in Game 1.
“How else do you say it other than Jimmy effing Butler,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his star’s big performance. “This was a very urgent game, and he was doing it on both ends of the court. Just put his imprint on every important part of the game.”
Good news for Butler: Adebayo has been upgraded to questionable for Game 4, saying Monday the decision would be up to the team’s medical staff. Dragic was once again listed as doubtful.
“I’m doing everything I can do,” Dragic said. “It does feel better than when it happened.
But we’ll see. I don’t have a timetable yet.”
Though getting Adebayo back would be a boon for the Heat, the Lakers can take solace knowing they remain in control of the series.
“I don’t feel like we’re concerned,” Los Angeles star LeBron James said after his team’s Sunday loss. “We’re not concerned. We know we can play a lot better. We have another opportunity to take a commanding lead on Tuesday. You relish that opportunity.”
A clear area where Los Angeles can improve is in turnovers. The Lakers committed 10 in the first quarter alone in Game 3, one more than they had total in Game 2. They finished the contest with 20, James being responsible for eight and Anthony Davis five.
Davis was further bogged down by foul trouble— he was called for three in the first half alone— and finished with 15 points. James had 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“I just have to be better,” Davis said. “Both ends of the floor. Foul trouble, bringing the energy to the team— the team relies on me bringing the energy to start the game. When you pick up two fouls, guys come in earlier, things like that. So, I just have to be better.”
The Lakers haven’t dropped back-to-back games all postseason.
“I like how we respond after losing a game,” Los Angeles reserve forward Markieff Morris said.