Miami Heat looked like they were destined to lose the Game 3 of the NBA Finals series against the LA Lakers, entering the contest without All-Star Bam Adebayo and starting guard Goran Dragic. But their superstar Jimmy Butler had other ideas.
Butler put arguably his greatest playoff performance on Sunday to keep Heat’s championship hopes alive and cut the Lakers’ lead in the series to 2-1, leading his team to a 115-104 win. The 31-year-old All-Star poured in game-leading 40 points while adding 11 rebounds and 13 assists alongside two steals and two blocks.
“I tell Coach all the time, ‘I’m ready for this,” said Butler after the game. “The biggest stage, whatever you ask me to do, I can do.”
Butler’s spectacular outing also impressed his opponents, with Lakers’ superstar LeBron James calling him “one of the best competitors we have in our game. “
“Love that opportunity,” said James. “For me, personally, I don’t know how many more opportunities I’m going to have so to be able to go against a fierce competitor like that is something I’ll look back on when I’m done playing. I’ll miss those moments.”
Besides Butler, several other Heat players stepped up to overcome the devastating loss of Adebayo and Dragic. Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson had 17 points and 13 points respectively, while Kelly Olynyk added 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
James had a near triple-double with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, with Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris contributing 19 points. Lakers’ other superstar Anthony Davis had a weak effort by his standards, scoring only 15 points.
The Game 4 is scheduled to tip off on Tuesday, with Miami hoping to have Adebayo and Dragic back.