Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat made sure last Monday that whichever way this series concludes, they won’t get swept by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Having cut the Lakers’ series lead down in half, will the Heat double up in Game 4 and tie the series upOr, will the Lakers take back the momentum and move a win away from clinching another NBA title?
Catch this game live on Wednesday, October 7 at 9 am, Manila time.
HOME TEAM: #5 Miami Heat (1-2)
Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals will forever be known as the game where Jimmy Butler’s Big Face Coffee worked like it’s the new Michael’s Secret Stuff.
Needing a huge game from their superstar to offset the absences of Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, the Heat got just exactly what they wanted, as Butler detonated for 40 points and added 13 assists and 11 rebounds to help Miami eke out a 115-104 win. It was his first career playoff triple-double, and came on the sport’s biggest stage.
Butler scored all those points without taking a 3-pointer, an approach that has been uncommon ever since the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry popularized the long ball. He repeatedly exploited his defenders off the dribble, aggressively hunting for his shots from start to finish while still finding time to get his teammates involved.
It’s a hard performance to sustain, one that only the true greats of the game could pull off, but with the current makeup of Miami, the team will have to continue asking the same production, if not more, from Butler.
That being said, Butler didn’t do it alone in Game 3. Kelly Olynyk followed up on his 24-point performance in Game 2 with a 17-point night, while hitting three 3-pointers. Tyler Herro also added 17.
Olynyk needs to sustain that form, as Dragic and Adebayo may not rejoin the fray soon. A spot of good news for the Heat, though, is that Adebayo’s status has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable.
Herro and Duncan Robinson will also need to shoot more consistently, as they were a combined 10 of 30 from the field in Game 3.
The ‘other guys’ will be key, because you know that the Lakers are going to be laser-focused on defense and will do everything in their power to make life uncomfortable for Butler in Game 4. The Lakers defense is no joke, so someone else will need to step up to support their gritty star.
ROAD TEAM: #1 Los Angeles Lakers (2-1)
Now is not the time for the Lakers’ tandem of Anthony Davis and LeBron James to scale back on their aggressiveness. After combining for at least 38 shots in Games 1 and 2, they took just 25 in Game 3.
Granted that Davis had to wiggle his way around early foul trouble in the last game, he shouldn’t have had taken just nine shots in 33 minutes. Davis finished with 15 points and five rebounds – a far cry from the first two games where he played like a Finals MVP candidate.
As for James, he went 9-of-16 from the field for 25 points. It sounds cliched, but the Lakers would be better off if Davis and James capitalize on their size to bully their way into the heart of a shorter, slimmer Miami interior defense.
Highlighting the importance of the two stars’ need to get more shots is the inevitable outside shooting regression of Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Rajon Rondo, who combined for just a 3-pointer on 10 attempts in Game 3. The fewer shots Davis and James take, the more are set aside for those three inefficient scorers.
Although the Lakers won the battle of the boards in Game 3, they missed the offensive rebounding of Davis, who only had two in the loss, six fewer than what he pulled down in Game 2. Assuming he doesn’t get into foul trouble again, the Lakers should get more second-chance looks in Game 4.
Jimmy Butler was magnificent in Game 3, but I’m not betting on him to put up another 40-point triple-double in Game 4, which has been the only trick that’s worked and resulted in a win so far for Miami.
The Lakers should take command of the series on Wednesday with a 118-113 win.