I always try and be unbiased when I write about sports. I try to not let my personal feelings or emotions towards someone get in the way of the story. Tonight, it’s hard to not be a bit biased. You all know that Jimmy Butler has been one of my favourite players since he came into this league. Tonight, JB was a legend. I don’t like saying things like this immediately after a game, I like to let my emotions settle and to calm down a bit first. But, I’m gonna say it anyway. That was one of the single greatest games in the NBA Finals that I’ve ever seen. Jimmy Butler was incredible. Miami was incredible. It was an inspiring and amazing performance. It’s going to be one of the games that I remember forever.
Before I dive into the breakdown of tonights game, I want to mention something from Game 2. On the broadcast tonight, they said that in Game 2, Miami shot 50/40/90 and became the only team to do so in a finals loss. That’s a crazy stat! I just wanted to bring that up. You don’t often see shooting performances like that from a team and I can’t ever recall seeing one in a loss before.
I don’t know if it’s just me or the NBA in general, but sometimes you can feel the “magic” in the air before certain special moments or games. It’s like the basketball gods are letting you know to pay attention, because something is about to happen. I remember feeling it before Leonard’s 4 bounce shot. Before Lillard’s game winner against OKC. LeBron’s block against Iggy. Countless moments in NBA history and I remember feeling the electricity in the air before it happened. I’d say to whoever I was watching it with “pay attention because something is about to happen”.
I bring this is up, because I had that feeling again tonight. A couple minutes before tip-off. Rachel Nichols was interviewing Jimmy Butler about the uphill battle they faced tonight. Trying to beat the Lakers without Bam and without Dragic. Jimmy was so calm and confident. It’s like he knew ahead of time that they would win. He believed in himself and in the team so much. His reply was “we get one tonight and we up to something”. I knew in that moment, that the Heat had this game. Admittedly, I didn’t know we would see a 40 point triple/double from JB.
I’m going to do this game breakdown a little bit different. I’m going to do a quarter by quarter recap. If I try and do the whole game, I’ll just talk about JB (more than I already have). So, I’m going to go back to my notes and do it piece by piece. Starting with the 3rd quarter. Joking! Obviously, I’ll start with the first.
The very first thing I noticed in this game was how different Miami looked when Jimmy played point or when someone else did. Butler was getting Miami into their sets and his aggression was creating points, either for himself or for a teammate. He lead Miami on a 12-2 run to get them a double digit lead. When Miami went away from Jimmy, they looked sloppy. It was one or two passes, followed by a bad shot. Unfortunately, Miami played like this for a while and the Lakers played themselves right back into the game, trailing by only 3 after 1. I will say that Solomon Hill gave Miami some good minutes off of the bench, especially in Butler’s absence.
The Lakers had a pretty bad first quarter. They ended the quarter with 10 turnovers. They were lucky to be down by only 3 points. Anthony Davis was not his usual self. Miami were aggressively double teaming him (and the ball in general) and seemed to be in his head. By the end of the first, Davis had 2 fouls, 0 shots and (I don’t have the exact statistic) I think 2 turnovers.
Moving into the second quarter, Miami continued to play well, particularly defensively. Unfortunately, they slowed down. They had a very cold patch on offense and let the Lakers back in it defensively. I found myself wondering where Herro was? What Robinson was doing? It felt like Miami might really suffer without Dragic and Adebayo.
For L.A., they were making some moves on offense. If it wasn’t James leading them, it was Rondo. Rondo and AD had another perfect alley-oop play, for about the millionth time this playoffs. Unfortunately, Davis picked up his 3rd foul and had to head to the bench. I was starting to notice that LeBron was getting a friendly whistle (or lack of) on a few plays. Lakers trailed by 4 at half time.
Davis picked up his 4th foul almost instantly to begin the second half and Miami went on a 10-0 run after this. Davis stayed in the game though, but obviously had to relax a bit defensively. This always annoys me when a star player is in foul trouble and the opposing team doesn’t go at him. Tonight was no different, Miami did not force the foul issue. I suppose, it’s pretty hard when it’s a great defender though. The Lakers answered Miami’s run with an 8-0 stretch of their own, but trailed by 5 at the end of the third. Every time Miami got a double digit lead, L.A. reeled them right back in.
A couple of other notes I had in the third, mainly about commentary. Firstly, I think Mark Jackson has been a real spud this series. Is he always like that and I’ve just never noticed before? He keeps saying silly things. Jeff Van Gundy made me laugh when Mark Jackson said a Rondo layup looked like a shot from a game of Horse and Jeff responded it was a “Horse something shot”. Someone also said that Jimmy Butler was doing a little bit of everything, but that was incorrect. JB was doing a LOT of everything.
I was also starting to get frustrated with LeBron during the third (and for the rest of the game). This guy gets so many friendly whistles and so much benefit of the doubt in no calls. Superstar calls. I don’t agree with it, but I understand and I am aware it exists. Which is why it drives me up the wall when they have the nerve to complain to the officials when a call doesn’t go their way. There are 2 types of LeBron. The first is the type who plays basketball like a machine. He blocked Iggy in Game 7 of the NBA finals, when the game was on the line. I love that guy. The second is the LeBron we had tonight. Always complaining and blaming others in a loss. I hate that guy.
Tonight, during the third, LeBron was complaining to the referees that he wasn’t getting enough calls. At this point (according to my stats that I was keeping, I’m 99% sure they were accurate) LeBron had taken 8 free throws, which was more than double anyone else in the game. How can you complain you aren’t getting enough calls when you have doubled anyone else? Also, he argued on one play that he didn’t travel. You took 5 steps dude!
There is one other play I want to bring up that happened in the third. There was around 6 and a half to 7 minutes left in the quarter. Jimmy Butler drove hard for the lay-up and instead of taking the easy two, he tried to dish it out for a three and turned the ball over. Instantly, Butler knew he had made a mistake. He was on AD, who had 4 fouls. He should have attempted the lay-up. AD wouldn’t of contested or he would have picked up his 5th foul. I don’t want to be critical of JB, especially not after tonight, but he has had a silly turnover like that in a few playoff games now. He has got to make the right decision!
Moving on to the fourth quarter! Morris hit a couple of back to back threes and the Lakers go on an 8-0 run to take the lead. It’s clutch time from this point on, we can kick back and watch the two stars go at it. LBJ and JB made sure to guard one another on almost every possession for the rest of the game. Ultimately, Butler won that matchup.
It started to fall apart again for L.A. They were piling on the turnovers and seemed unable to stop Jimmy. With the exception of Morris, not much was going their way.
Tyler Herro finally turned up with a few key buckets in the fourth. He wasn’t as clutch as normal, but he could still be known as “Mr. 4th Quarter” moving forward. Kelly Olynk hit a few big shots and had a great steal on LeBron James. Jimmy remained aggressive and the Heat got over the line. LeBron and the Lakers left the court a few seconds early, only to be called back by the refs to finish the game. I always think it’s a bad look when the losing team storms off the court before the buzzer. Bam looks very happy on the bench.
Post Game, Rachel Nichols had Jimmy Butler again and he did not look like a guy who just played 45 minutes. Honestly, it looked like he could go out and play another game. Butler remained humble, refusing to talk about his own performance. “I don’t care about 40 points, I don’t care about triple doubles. Whatever. Win. That’s all I care about”. Don’t you ever change, JB.
We will have a quick look at some key individual stat lines and then I will stop talking and you can all go about your day.
Miami first. Jimmy Butler (have I mentioned him yet?) had 40 points on an incredible 70% shooting night – he attempted no triples and went 12 of 14 from the free throw line. When was the last 40 point game without a three pointer? Butler also had 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. 5 turnovers, but when you have the ball almost every single possession, that’s to be expected.
Crowder had 12 points and 8 rebounds, but he attempted too many triples. He shot 25% from long range, going just 2 of 8. Leonard went a perfect 3 for 3, scoring 7 points in limited minutes. Robinson had 13 points, 30% from downtown. He really needs to find his shot. Herro had 17, but his impact was missing again. Herro shot 33% overall. Olynk made some big baskets, shooting 60% from long range for 17 points, to go along with 7 rebounds. I would say Olynk was the second best player for Miami tonight.
For Los Angeles, LeBron lead the way with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He also had 2 blocks, shooting 56% overall but going just 1 of 5 from downtown. AD never really made an impact in this game, scoring 15 points. He connected on 6 of his 9 shot attempts.
Kuzma was a positive point for the Lakers. He scored 19 points and went 50% from outside. Morris went 67% from outside and also had 19 points. Green scored his only 2 points at the free throw line, going 0 of his 6 attempts. Jr Smith had 3. Howard had 4. KCP had 5. Can I get a 6? Nope. Caruso had 8 points. Rondo had 4 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. How the heck did Rondo have more rebounds than Davis?
Speaking of rebounds, the Lakers dominated on the offensive boards again, but it didn’t seem to matter. They were +8 in offensive boards and +6 overall. Miami actually did a pretty decent job on trying to keep up rebounding. The Lakers got a few from missed free throws on their own end, which should not happen. They’ve got the strength advantage though.
Both teams struggled to shoot the three ball. The Lakers made 2 more but also attempted an extra 8 of them. Miami shot at 35% compared to the Lakers at 33%. However, Miami made up for it in other ways. Miami connected on 41 of their 80 attempts for the evening, compared to Los Angeles, connecting on just 34 of 79 attempts. The Lakers also struggled at the free throw line, shooting 75% compared to Miami at 92%.
Two more stats and then I promise I’ll shut up. The Lakers had 19 turnovers, compared to just 12 for Miami. I say this every single recap! If you turn the ball over a lot, you will likely pay for it. The Lakers struggled with that tonight.
Finally, Miami dominated the points in the paint category. This is likely due to AD’s struggles, but it is still very impressive. 52 points in the paint, compared to just 34 for L.A. Like I said, it’s likely due to AD having an off night, but also give credit to Butler for being so aggressive.
Miami win, 115-104 and now trail 2-1 in the series. See you guys on Tuesday for Game 4!