LeBron James has never swept a team in the NBA Finals and that streak will continue after he and the Los Angeles Lakers dropped Game 3 against the Miami Heat.
James’s boxscore numbers were solid as he recorded another near triple-double with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but he also committed eight of the Lakers’ 20 turnovers on the night.
Those turnovers led to 21 points for the Heat that ultimately factored in as part of the difference in the game. Los Angeles had no answer for Jimmy Butler who recorded his first postseason triple-double (40 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds) while adding two steals and two blocks.
He was able to get switches on smaller defenders, namely Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who he then backed down for midrange jumpers or drew a foul on.
Despite the overall poor effort, James and the Lakers still sit with a 2-1 lead and the superstar was not concerned about possibly giving the Heat the boost they needed to climb back into the series.
“When you have an opportunity and you don’t make the most of it, then you come back the next time. It’s not like the series was over if we won tonight,” James said. “We know for sure that Miami is never going to quit, no matter if we won tonight and they go into a Game 4, 3-0.
“I know how resilient that bunch is and how resilient that coaching staff is and their franchise. I don’t ever feel like we let our guard down. Also, I don’t feel like we’re concerned. 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.”
Miami has been a resilient bunch throughout the postseason, responding any time they looked to be in trouble. They were considered major underdogs heading into Game 3 as Bam Adebayo and Gorand Dragic were forced to sit out again.
James and Anthony Davis should be better in Game 4 as the superstar duo has been also been known to respond well after a loss. Davis in particular had arguably his worst showing of his incredible postseason run, scoring only 15 points due to early foul trouble.
The two were recently compared to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and they will need to bounce back in Game 4 if they want to honor that sort of proclamation.
LeBron relishes playing against Jimmy Butler
James and Butler have had their fair share of postseason battles, with the two last meeting in the 2015 Playoffs. They have played 14 postseason games against each other, with James holding a 10-4 edge.
Butler’s Game 3 masterpiece brought Miami one game closer to evening up the Finals but should give James extra motivation to come out better in Game 4. Even in Year 17, the star is still enjoying playing against a player like Butler when the stakes are at their highest.
“Love it. One of the best competitors we have in our game,” James said. “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.”
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