Following Jimmy Butler’s 40-point triple-double in Game 3, the onus was on head coach Frank Vogel and the Los Angeles Lakers to adjust their defense and figure out a way to contain him in Game 4 and maintain control of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers were able to do just that, especially after the first quarter, and the main reasons were the efforts of their two stars, Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
Butler shot 5-of-5 for 11 points in the first quarter, but just 3-for-14 the rest of the way as the Lakers battled their way to a 102-96 victory to go up 3-1.
Davis was the primary defender for much of the night on Butler, with James also taking on the challenge at different points and that was by design.
“Set a big tone. That was a big part of our plan, the adjustments from last game to this game was to try to keep those guys on him as much as possible,” Vogel said following the win. “They rose to the challenge.
“They really stepped up. Obviously it’s one game, we still have work to do. But tonight’s game, those guys did a great job.”
Davis finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting while James received votes for the NBA’s All-Defensive team, and they showed exactly why in Game 4.
Davis’ ability to defend a perimeter player the caliber of Butler at his size is truly remarkable, as is James’ capability to keep up and lock in, in his 17th NBA season. The combination forced Butler into some difficult shots, tough passes, and uncharacteristic turnovers down the stretch of a very tight game.
That’s what we study film for. We studied the game tape and see where you’re getting hurt.
There were ways that he was hurting us,” Vogel added.
“Obviously, he had 40 points last game. So we identified ways that we can take certain things away from them, and hopefully not get hurt too bad. That’s what it’s about, making adjustments.”
The plan for the Lakers seemed to be to put size on Butler to limit his ability to bully his way to the basket. Davis, LeBron, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma were the only players Vogel seemed comfortable having on Butler, and it can be considered to have been a success.
LeBron’s philosophy on trash talk
James tends to set the tone with his play as he isn’t much of a trash-talker. Exchanges between the two teams got plenty of attention following Game 3 as Butler was seen saying that the Lakers were ‘in trouble’ as Miami was clinching the win.
Things also got heated in Game 4 as James and Jae Crowder exchanged words after some physical plays. But overall LeBron doesn’t consider himself much of a trash-talker.
“I’ve always been a guy who kind of let his game do the talking,” James said. “But when guys get to talking, I can do that, as well. I’ve always tried to let my game do the talking.”
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