The Los Angeles Lakers have been considered overwhelming favorites in the NBA Finals, but got punched in the mouth as the Miami Heat upset them in Game 3, winning 115-104.
Jimmy Butler was the catalyst for the Heat as the swingman recorded his best performance of the postseason, exploding for 40 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in 45 minutes of action. Butler was everywhere on the floor, punishing Los Angeles in the midrange area and using the extra defensive attention to make plays for Miami’s shooters.
On the other side, the Lakers were not sharp throughout the night and seemed to be going through the motions. L.A. committed 20 turnovers which led to 21 points for the Heat, while also giving up 52 points in the paint.
The Heat were the aggressors from the jump and even though the Lakers tried their best to rally back in spurts, they were never able to capture the momentum. Kyle Kuzma believes he and his teammates did not play with the same sense or urgency they displayed earlier in the series.
“Any time you have over 12, 13, 14 turnovers, that’s a lot. Any time you have 20 turnovers, let alone in the Finals or a playoff game, it doesn’t bode well for you,” Kuzma said.
“They just get so many more opportunities to score; we’re not even getting shots up. It hurts, for sure. Disappointed. That was our game and we let our foot off the gas. We had a lot of mistakes offensively with the turnovers, and defensively as well. We’re disappointed.”
While the loss will sting, Kuzma did not seem rattled and remained optimistic heading into Game 4. “The main thing is controlling what we can control, working on ourselves,” he said. “Twenty turnovers, missed box outs, just easy things that over the two games prior we didn’t have those issues. We had a letdown, for sure.”
LeBron James and Anthony Davis had lackluster performances, combining for only 40 points and 13 turnovers in a game where they desperately needed to step up. Kuzma on the other hand had his best game of the Finals so far, scoring 19 points, largely behind shooting 4-of-8 from three.
Miami’s been intent on packing the paint to limit L.A.’s scoring opportunities and in Game 3 it worked as James and Davis were forced to kick out to teammates who settled for the looks they got. Davis’ foul trouble also likely played a role as the big man did not play with the aggression the Lakers are used to seeing.
Kuzma says Lakers are not perfect
Los Angeles has stomped through the playoffs, playing championship-level basketball nearly every series. However, their loss in Game 3 of the Finals was reminder that they can be beaten on any given night. Kuzma emphasized this point after the game.
“No one is perfect. We’re not a perfect team, we’re not perfect individuals. Everybody [expletive] up, everyone makes mistake,” he said. “The biggest thing for us is keying in on what we need to do and doing what we’ve done all year.
“Our message is we don’t like to lose two in a row. That’s been our goal; not just for the playoffs but entire season. We’ve got to respond, and I like our chances because of who we have on the team.”
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