LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jimmy Butler guided the Miami Heat to their first win of the NBA Finals with a triple-double consisting of 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in Sunday night’s 115-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers now lead the series 2-1.
“We won. I could care less about a triple-double,” said Butler, who also registered two steals and two blocks. “We play this game to win. I’m glad my teammates got a lot of trust and faith in me to go out there and hoop like that, but like I always say, you guarantee me a win, I could care less.”
Miami was without starting point guard Goran Dragic (foot) and All-Star big man Bam Adebayo (neck) for the second consecutive game. With much of the team’s playmaking sidelined, Butler filled that department and defended LeBron James for much of the contest while playing a game-high 45 minutes.
“How else do you say it other than Jimmy effing Butler,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But this is what he wanted, this is what we wanted. 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.”
Reserve Heat center Kelly Olynyk came off the bench and contributed mightily with 17 points, seven boards and shooting 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Rookie guard Tyler Herro also scored 17 points in his second straight start.
The Lakers came out flat from the onset. All-Star big Anthony Davis picked up two fouls in the opening quarter before being benched and he was whistled for a third foul in the second quarter. He was never able to establish a level of aggression.
In 33 minutes of play, Davis registered 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and five turnovers.
“It had an impact,” Davis said about the foul trouble. “So it takes away the aggressiveness on both ends of the floor that I’m used to playing with, and those guys like to take charges or whatever, and you know, try to draw offensive fouls. … Still got to be better and still got to find ways to affect the game on both ends of the floor, but it definitely took me out and put a little bit too much pressure on the other guys.”
James had a team-high 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but he accounted for eight of the team’s 20 turnovers.
“We know that we can’t turn the ball over versus this team,” he said. “They are very active defensively. It starts with myself, being the starting point guard of the team, having five first-half turnovers, eight total for the game. Can’t do that, obviously, because it gives them more possessions and doesn’t allow us to set our defense. They are really, really good offensively, so you just can’t turn the ball over against that team. I take full responsibility for that.”
Butler joined James in accomplishing a rare feat.
He became the third player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double in the Finals, accompanying the Lakers’ star and former Lakers great Jerry West. At times during the game, James and Butler were seen playfully jawing at one another.
“Love it. Love it,” James said of the matchup with Butler. “One of the best competitors we have in our game. We love that opportunity. 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.”
The overwhelming sentiment after the Lakers went up 2-0 was that a sweep was inevitable. With two key players out of commission, the Heat’s underdog status increased exponentially.
If the Heat are able to get Dragic and Adebayo back for Game 4 on Tuesday, the pressure could intensify for the Lakers. Players in the Lakers’ locker room had hoped to be departing the bubble after Tuesday.
Now, the series extends to at least Game 5 on Friday.
“I don’t feel like we’re concerned,” James said. “We’re not concerned. We know we can play a lot better. We have another opportunity to take a commanding lead on Tuesday. You relish that opportunity.”
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