As the seconds ticked off the clock with Game 3 of the NBA Finals coming to an end, the Los Angeles Lakers had a problem. It wasn’t that they were going to lose — OK, it was partly that — but it was that most of their team had left the floor early, and they needed a fifth player to come back so the Heat could inbound and finish up their 115-104 upset victory with 0.7 seconds left.
Markieff Morris eventually came out, but it was emblematic of a bad loss in which too few Lakers showed up until it was too late.
This was about the best game the Heat could have played without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, and this was nearly as bad as the Lakers could have played against a shorthanded Heat squad. The Heat led by three after the first quarter, four after the first half and five after the third, slowly building up a lead by being juuuust better than the Lakers in each frame. The Lakers only took their third lead of the game in the fourth quarter, playing very much like a team that thought they could turn it on at any moment.
But Jimmy Butler, as he did all night, wouldn’t let them hold that lead for long. The Heat all stepped up to make their zone defense look more active and effective than it did last game — in addition to a smart adjustment from Erik Spoelstra in clogging the paint with their bigger bodies — but it was Butler who brought them home offensively with an absolutely transcendent effort.
The Lakers never sent help at Butler, and he roasted defenders that were either too small, too weak, too slow or all three all night. He hit shot after shot down the stretch to finish with 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in 45 minutes the Heat desperately needed. It was one of the best NBA Finals performances this blogger has ever seen.
Jimmy Butler had 40 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. This is third 40-point triple-double in the NBA Finals as Butler joins Jerry West and LeBron James per @ESPNStatsInfo— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) October 5, 2020
On the other side of things, turnovers were an issue for the Lakers, who set a season-high with 10 in the first quarter and finished the game with 19. Credit to Miami for forcing many of those miscues with their defense, but the Lakers have to play smarter than that.
Speaking of turnovers, this was a bad game from LeBron James. He got his numbers (24 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists) but coughed the ball up eight times, too often forcing feeds that weren’t there. Anthony Davis also wasn’t good in this one, suffering from foul trouble for basically the whole first half and not finding a way to impose himself down the stretch. He finished with 15 points on 6-9 shooting, taking less attempts than Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma (13 each) and only one more than Rajon Rondo (eight).
Going in, we never would have expected this series to be a sweep. This is never how the Lakers would have wanted to lose — and this was a fairly unconscionable loss — but sweeps in the NBA Finals are rare, and the Lakers have no one to blame but themselves for letting this game get away. Again, credit the Heat for taking this game, but the Lakers should not have let them. They keep saying the job isn’t finished, but they acted like a team that though it was done for much of the last two games. It didn’t bite them in Game 2, but it certainly did tonight.
Both teams will have Monday off before regrouping for another rematch on Tuesday for Game 4. We’ll see if the Lakers can muster 48 minutes of effort then. Maybe they should try some of Butler’s coffee before and see if that perks them up for a Finals game.