The Miami Heat again were without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, but they this time managed to upset the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Jimmy Butler’s triple-double in a 115-104 win in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
As expected, the Heat came out with much more energy than the Lakers on both ends, generating four early turnovers and executing in the half court to go up 16-8. Anthony Davis was uncharacteristically careless with the ball, allowing Miami to get under him in the post and forcing him into turnovers.
After Davis drew his second foul, LeBron James looked to jumpstart the offense by driving to the basket and earning himself trips to the free throw line. Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma provided a much-needed lift by hitting a few threes, but L.A. still went into the second quarter down 26-23.
The Lakers had 10 turnovers in the first while Davis failed to register a shot attempt. Miami had 11 points off those turnovers.
Morris and Kuzma continued their strong shooting start with the former nailing another three while the latter completed an and-1 opportunity to briefly give the Lakers the lead. Davis finally scratched from the field, draining a corner 3 of his own and flushing a lob from Rajon Rondo.
However that was met by Jimmy Butler keying an 11-0 Heat run that allowed them to pull back ahead. Without Davis’ rim protection, Miami was able to knife into the paint for layups to maintain their slim advantage. Butler’s playmaking and scoring proved to be an issue, and the Lakers went into the half down 58-54.
The beginning of the third quarter mirrored the first as the Laker defense was lackadaisical, allowing the Heat to go on an 10-0 run which gave them their first double-digit lead of the night. Los Angeles responded with an 8-0 run after stringing together several great defensive possessions, but Butler’s terrific play kept them at bay.
The Heat’s plan to pack the paint worked as the Laker offense stalled, especially with James not on the floor. The bench unit was able to make a couple of plays to cut the deficit, but L.A. still found themselves down 85-80.
They finally woke up after Morris knocked down two more corner 3s while a Rondo layup put them ahead. Miami immediately responded, knocking down two threes to push their lead back to six. Butler continued to keep his fingerprints on the game, ensuring the Heat would not blow another lead.
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