Down two starters. Down 2-0 in the NBA Finals. All hope is lost for the Heat, right? After defeating the Lakers in Game 3, 115-104, the Heat look like they did not get the message about the series being over after Friday night.
In the first two games of the series, the Heat have been able to score and shoot at a fairly high percentage. However, on offense, one thing that they were missing was a dominant Jimmy Butler. Sunday night, that aggressive Butler was in full focus. With 40 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists, Butler was, by far, the best player on the floor all night long. In the first two games, there were plenty of times that Butler drove to the basket, only to toss the ball out to another Heat player.
In Game 3, Butler became the selfish player that the Heat needed him to be. Shooting 14-20 from the field and 12-14 from the free throw line, Butler provided some missing offense that the Heat needed to compete with the Lakers.
Another advantage enjoyed by the Heat was the fact that Anthony Davis played the majority of the night in serious foul trouble. Davis only managed to get 9 shots and scored just 15 points. A far cry below 34 and 32 points he scored in Games 1 and 2. As a team, the Heat were able to hold the Lakers to 43% shooting from the field, and just 33% from behind the arc.
In the last two games, the Lakers have taken 47 and 42 three point shots. This is not their bread-and-butter, and the Heat continue to draw the Lakers into shooting from outside by limiting the Lakers ability to get into the key. As a result, the Laker guards have been limited to putting the ball on the floor a few times and then kicking the ball out to someone behind the arc. So far, this plan has been working for the Heat.
For the Lakers, one thing became painfully obvious for their fans. The Lakers cannot stop the ball. Similar to what was happening against the Rockets. Maybe it is time to bring out the double team on Jimmy Butler. He was able to get to the basket at will. Even with LeBron James guarding him. Secondly, it might behoove Frank Vogel to put the ball in Rajon Rondo’s hands in the 4th Quarter. LeBron tried to take control, but was called for traveling twice and tossed the ball out of bounds for a third turnover at times when the Lakers were within a possession.
If the Lakers have any hope of ending this series, they are going to need to do something about Jimmy Butler. Having LeBron guard the hot hand like they did with Jamal Murray in the Conference Finals, did not work. As long as Butler is able to score at will, the Lakers are, in the words of Butler himself, “are in trouble.”