Jimmy Butler played the best game of his career a couple of nights ago, saving a hampered Miami Heat squad from falling into the lethal 3-0 hole, a deficit that no NBA team has ever been able to overcome. His 40-point triple-double in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers will go down as one of the greatest individual performances ever executed on a basketball court. But a lot had to go right for Miami–and wrong for Los Angeles–in order for them to fight back into the series. It took constant Laker foul trouble, 19 turnovers, an off-night from beyond the arc, and an all-time performance from Butler to secure Game 3 for the Heat. Regardless, the competition is back.
Miami still trails the series 2-1, and key injuries continue to cast a cloud of doubt over the next few games. Goran Dragic might not make it back in time. Bam Adebayo could be ready to go, but to what extent?
Bam Adebayo’s status
As of 2:00 p.m. EST, Bam Adebayo is still listed as questionable for Game 4. He was upgraded from doubtful on Monday afternoon and his status will likely come down to the last few hours before tipoff. The Heat coaching staff essentially had to force Adebayo from playing in Game 3, so moving him to questionable provides some optimism that he’s going to give it an effort.
Adebayo’s impact for Miami is unquestioned, but don’t forget that they were still losing by 30 points before he went out of Game 1 with the neck strain. The former Wildcat was 2-8 from the field and a minus-12 in the 21 minutes he did appear in before heading to the locker room. But let’s not get this twisted, Miami needs Adebayo in the worst way if they’re going to have a chance going forward. His absence in Game 3 wasn’t as detrimental as it normally is for Miami, considering Anthony Davis was in serious foul trouble (which we’ll touch on more shortly) and L.A. as a whole couldn’t take advantage of a weak Heat frontline.
But I will say this: the Lakers are going to respond against the Miami man defense that threw them off in Game 3. If Adebayo isn’t patrolling the paint, L.A. will find a way to get inside. The Lakers have averaged a league-high 48.4 points per game in the playoffs. Miami held them to just 34 in Game 3, which correlated to 32.7 percent of their team offense (L.A.’s third-lowest percentage of the playoffs). Adebayo in or out, the Lakers will absolutely attack the paint in Game 4. Keep an eye on Davis being force-fed the ball early.
The biggest question concerning Adebayo is going to be just how healthy is he? Can he contribute to the game with the same force that he did in the previous three rounds? When he initially suffered the injury, he had a tough time extending his arm above his head. 75 percent of Adebayo is still going to yield more productive results than 100 percent of Kelly Olynyk or Meyers Leonard, but the long term risks also have to be accounted for.
More 4th quarter Herro (in all quarters)
Time and time again, Tyler Herro has hit big shots for the Miami Heat in the playoffs. Typically it’s been a rainbow 3-pointer or a dagger from the mid-range, but the rookie dove deep into his bag for this Game 3 trick.
LeBron James drove for an easy dunk that cut Miami’s lead to seven points with just over a minute left in the game. Without Goran Dragic to direct the offense, Herro took control and slowly dribbled up the floor with Rajon Rondo not too far from his hip. If there’s been one knock on Herro’s play as a first-year player (outside of typical rookie defensive issues), it would be that he struggles with heavy on-ball pressure. If the defender gets up his grill near halfcourt, he’ll pick up his dribble or look for a teammate. But in a critical moment of the game, Herro went on the attack. He put his head down, drove straight through Rondo, and rolled the ball off his fingertips for an and-one layup that all-but sealed the win for Miami.
Best of all, it gave us the Herro Snarl.
Game 4: Tuesday – 9pm/et, ABC pic.twitter.com/DVbVesC95N
— NBA (@NBA) October 5, 2020
Herro finished Game 3–his second consecutive as a starter–with 17 points, three rebounds, and two assists. He didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, going 6-18, and it took until the fourth quarter for him to wake up. Late-game Herro needs to turn into all-game Herro. He’s playing far too many minutes to not leave a mark in some fashion throughout every quarter.
Anthony Davis’ foul trouble
Anthony Davis did whatever he wanted in the first two games, dropping 34 and 32 points, respectively, while shooting over 63 percent from the floor. It didn’t take long for the Lakers to figure out the Miami zone defense, and it wound up doing more to help Davis than it did to deter him. After spending the majority of his playoff run firing up mid-range jumpers (with impressive success), pockets of air began to surface throughout the Heat zone. Davis didn’t waste any time locating all of them, and had zero issues filling it in with baseline dunks and offensive rebounds. He became almost too comfortable with those looks; in Game 4, Miami took them all away.
A man-to-man look out of the gate for the Heat put a different kind of pressure on the Laker offense. I would imagine that L.A. saw this coming after they exploited the Miami zone with ease through two entire games, but they appeared underprepared. Davis only managed 15 points in 32 Game 3 minutes, turning the ball over five times, as well. But it was the first seven-minute stint of the game that set the tone for his entire evening.
Davis was always a focus of the Miami zone, but didn’t always have someone locked in on him at all times. In a man-to-man setting, a Heat player was always attached to his hip. Early on, it was Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala–two smaller-sized forwards compared to Davis, but players with a penchant for battling against bigs. Those two prevented Davis from even getting off a shot through the first quarter. Sometimes Jimmy Butler came over to help, too. Davis quickly became frustrated and began to rush himself on offense. During one unfortunate span, he mishandled a pass from LeBron and fumbled it out of bounds, then lost it again on a double-team a couple of possessions later; Butler was the man who brought help both times. LeBron then went to the bench for his usual rest and Davis immediately threw the ball out of bounds the first time up the court. The very next Laker possession, Davis begs for the ball in the post, runs straight back into another Iguodala-Butler double-team, and is called for a charge on Butler. To cap it all off, Davis earned his second foul just two Heat possessions later, hitting Kelly Olynyk on a drive to the rim.
Nearly eight minutes played, no shots, no points, no rebounds, four turnovers, and two fouls. Miami led 22-9 once Davis went to the bench; L.A. went on a 14-4 run to end the final four minutes of the quarter with Davis off the floor.
That first 8-minute stretch nearly destroyed any confidence Davis had for the remainder of the night. He was able to regain some rhythm in the third quarter, scoring 10 of his 15 points despite picking up his fourth foul not even two minutes into the period, but he attempted just one shot in nine fourth-quarter minutes, recording a single rebound. Davis was a Finals MVP candidate through two games; Miami turned him into a role player for Game 3. His response in Game 4 will set the tone early for both teams.
Can Jimmy Butler replicate his Game 3 performance?
“As long as we don’t beat ourselves, I like it,” Jimmy Butler said of his team’s chances moments before Game 3.
The Lakers should have taken Butler’s advice for themselves ahead of Game 3. Miami turned the ball over seven fewer times than L.A., made 21 of its 23 free throws, shot over 50 percent from the field, and hauled in enough rebounds to prevent an overwhelming amount of second-chance opportunities. They played a near-perfect game on both ends of the floor, even if they needed a little luck to spark it. Butler doesn’t necessarily need to replicate a 40-point triple-double, but he does need to replicate his effort; when he is always attacking, all of his teammates become better as a result. While Herro and Duncan Robinson combined to shoot 5-17 from beyond the arc in Game 3, they were able to inhale a breath of fresh air compared to the first two outings, when they struggled to find any space to fire up shots from deep. Butler’s penetration creates opportunities for those two. From this perspective, Miami still has another level to its offense that they can unlock. But Butler is the key that will open it up.
Game 4 will tipoff later on Tuesday evening at 9:00 p.m. EST on ABC.