Good afternoon, folks. Someone put that Tyler Herro snarl on a 40-hour loop, please. Let's talk NBA Bubble.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS - 104 MIAMI HEAT - 115 [LAL leads 2-1]
Jimmy Butler was pissed off.
Down 2-0 in the NBA Finals against LeBron James, Anthony Davis
, and the Los Angeles Lakers without his two best teammates by his side, Butler decided to take matters into his own hands--actually, he was forced to. Nobody outside of the Heat locker room believed they had a chance to win Game 3 on Sunday night--and even then, Butler might have been one of the few on the inside. Bam Adebayo
(neck strain) and Goran Dragic (foot) were viewed as too valuable of pieces for the Miami Heat to lose and still have a shot to win this series. They were dismantled in Game 1 with
Adebayo and Dragic before letting the Lakers offense do whatever it wanted in Game 2. It was going to take a 40-point showing from Butler for Miami to even sniff a win; so that's what he went out and did.
Out of the gate, Los Angeles was out of sorts. Miami elected to turn away from the zone defense that the Lakers had abused all too easily in the first two games. Man-to-man matchups must have surprised the Laker offense early, as they turned the ball over NINE times through the first eight minutes of the first quarter.
They finished the quarter with 10 miscues, the most by any team in a single quarter this season.
Butler established himself early (and often), scoring eight first-quarter points while LeBron and Davis both recorded four turnovers apiece. With the Lakers flummoxed on offense, Davis picking up his second personal foul with four minutes left in the first led to complete dysfunction on the opposite end of the court, too. Davis didn't even attempt a shot in the first quarter, playing only seven minutes. Miami began the night shooting 7-8 from the field and skirted ahead to a 22-9 lead.
But this affair would be a game of back-and-forth runs. L.A. managed to bring themselves within three, 26-23, heading into the second quarter and quickly built on that momentum. After a hot start, Miami went an ice-cold 4-20 shooting. The Lakers took back the lead, going up 37-33 midway through the period. Davis finally found some rhythm, scoring his first points of the game around the nine-minute mark. However, he picked up a cheap third foul with about five minutes left that sent him back to the bench once again. He played just 11 total minutes in the first half. Miami rattled off a 9-0 scoring run before
Davis picked up that third foul, too, and they continued to hold the lead into the intermission. The Heat were ahead 58-54 at halftime.
Butler racked up 19 points, six rebounds, and six assists through the first 24 minutes while rookie Tyler Herro
struggled shooting the ball. The one-time Wildcat contributed just four first-half points on a 1-8 shooting clip and missed seven in a row after connecting on his first shot. However, he responded in a massive way for Miami in the second half of the night.
Not even two minutes into the third quarter, Davis picked up a needless fourth foul defending a screen. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel elected to keep in him, though, with his team struggling on offense and Davis yet to find his groove. Miami jetted ahead to a 10-0 run to open the half and led by as many as 14 points. Herro put the stamp on that run, drilling a big triple followed by a fastbreak layup to give Miami the 14-point advantage. But L.A. responded as Davis wound up playing all 12 third-quarter minutes and didn't take long to bring themselves close again. The former 'Cat came alive for 10 third-quarter points despite the four fouls. Down double-digits for the majority of the third, L.A. crawled back to trail just 85-80 heading into the final quarter.
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra didn't run much zone defense--if any--during the second half, slotting Butler on LeBron and denying any switching action from the Lakers. If LeBron called for a screener, Butler fought through to stay on LeBron. Whoever the Lakers were attacking on defense (whether it be Duncan Robinson or Herro or whoever), that Heat player would jump out over the screen and stunt at the ball handler before springing back to his man while Butler recovered after fighting through a screen. For the most part, it worked like a charm. Watching LeBron and Butler go head-to-head for nearly an entire half was wildly entertaining and Butler even got the best of him in the end.
The Lakers put together one last run down the stretch as they attempted the come from behind win. They briefly went ahead 91-89 with nine minutes left in the game thanks to a Rajon Rondo
layup, but Butler immediately responded with a bucket before Kelly Olynyk and Herro both buried triples. Butler continued his takeover, adding 10 points in the fourth quarter before finishing with one of the most impressive NBA Finals stat lines of all-time: 40 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, two steals, and two blocks while shooting 14-20 from the floor and 12-14 from the free-throw line. Considering the context of this game (down 2-0 in the Finals, no Adebayo or Dragic, while playing against the most historic franchise of all-time who has the greatest player of all-time and his best-supporting teammate) it has to go down as one of the greatest individual performances in basketball history. It was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history.
''This is what he wanted, this is what we wanted,'' Spoelstra said after the game. ''It's really hard to analyze or describe Jimmy until you actually feel him between the four lines. He's a supreme, elite competitor and we needed it.''
Herro capped off the Miami win with an and-1 score on Rondo that put Miami up 10 with under 60 seconds left. It led to this beautiful meme of what we will now refer to as the "Tyler Snarl". The rookie finished with 17 points and came up clutch late in the game for Miami despite a rough first half.
Davis finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists in his 32 minutes due to the early foul trouble, but also turned the ball over five times and was a minus-26. Rondo added four points, eight rebounds, and five assists for the Lakers in 27 minutes.
Game 4 is set for Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. EST on ABC. If Adebayo or Dragic can find a way to come back healthy, look out...
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