Heat’s Jimmy Butler Relishes Competing With Lakers’ LeBron James

When you’re sitting on the throne, everyone wants to challenge you for the crown. Ahead of Saturday’s anticipated NBA Finals rematch between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, Jimmy Butler is excited to again match up against LeBron James.

The last time the Heat faced off against the Lakers was in the 2020 NBA Finals, which occurred in the Orlando bubble because of the pandemic. Miami, who started the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, knocked off three teams with a better record — Indiana, Milwaukee and Boston — culminating in a showdown against the Lakers, the first seed in the Western Conference.

The series reached six games when the Lakers captured the title. Butler performed exceptionally well, averaging 26.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.8 assists in 43 minutes per game. He led Miami in all three of those categories while shooting 55.2% from the field, 30.8% from 3-point range and 88.7% at the free throw line.

If there is anyone who can’t wait for tipoff Saturday, it’s Butler. Not just to possibly defeat the Lakers, but to have another opportunity at facing James, via ESPN’s Rachel Nichols:

“I want to beat him. He always beats me when it matters, we all know that. But I really enjoy going up against the best just to show I’m up there somewhere around that level. If you can compete with him, you can compete with anybody.”

Despite starting the season 12-17, ranking 11th in the East, Miami is coming into the game off a strong 118-110 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Butler had a triple-double in the win, going for 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.

For the Lakers, they’re coming off an ugly 109-98 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers desperately needed extra creativity on offense to support James, as Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder were ruled out prior to the contest.

Davis potentially out four weeks

Once said to be out 2-3 weeks, Davis is now expected to miss one month as he continues to rehab lower-leg injuries. Following the loss to Brooklyn, Vogel revealed team doctors confirmed Davis suffered a right calf strain, and they want to proceed with caution in order to minimize any risks.

“We want to try to put this fully behind him and be conservative with it just to make sure it’s fully healed before he’s back,” Vogel said.

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