Three Takeaways From Jimmy Butler Willing The Heat To A Game 3 Win

The Miami Heat entered Game 3 as 9.5-point underdogs to the Los Angeles Lakers as they were once again going to face the Lakers down a pair of their stars, as Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic missed their second straight game due to injuries.

Prior to Game 2, Jimmy Butler asserted that he would have to have a greater impact on the offense than he’s ever had, not just in his time in Miami but in his career, and in Game 3 he proved that to be the point in a spectacular and gutty 40-point, 13-assist, and 10-rebound triple-double to will the Heat to a 115-104 win and pull them to within 2-1 in the Finals.

It was an all-time performance from a player who has made a habit of fourth quarter takeovers in the Bubble, and with the potential for Miami to get some of its starpower back for Game 4, his performance in Game 3 makes things very interesting moving forward. Here are our takeaways from a stunning Game 3.

1. Jimmy Butler is an absolute dog

Butler played 45 minutes in Game 3, only sitting for a brief period in the first quarter and one minute to start the fourth, and from the outset he had his imprint on everything the Heat were doing. He was terrific all game, but it was his play in the fourth quarter that will be what’s remembered most, as he had 10 of his 40 in the final period, eight of which in the final four minutes after L.A. had cut the lead to six.

No one expected anything less from Butler in terms of effort, but few predicted that he’d be able to execute as well as he did. Butler has always prided himself on his work ethic and ability to play harder than his opponent, but on this night he wasn’t just the hardest worker, he looked like the most skilled. Butler was a maestro offensively, which isn’t something you often hear about the All-Star. He was a hammer when he needed to be, bludgeoning the Lakers defense with drives to create contact and get to the line 14 times, but he also showed the finesse and precision that isn’t always thought of in Butler’s game. He carved into the lane to fling passes out to the perimeter to set up shooters — sometimes to a frustrating degree given he would pass up apparent open layups — and he orchestrated the offense to get just about whatever he wanted in terms of matchup, something we’re used to seeing from his counterpart in LeBron James.

It was as good an individual effort as you will see in a Finals game and that he was able to help the Heat to a win under the most improbable of circumstances will only grow the legend of Jimmy Buckets.

2. Kelly Olynyk: Difference Maker

Prior to the series many, including myself, wondered if this would be the series where Erik Spoelstra had to turn to Kelly Olynyk for major minutes, and in Game 3 we saw the benefits of doing so. Olynyk came off the bench to give Miami 17 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes of play, and even came up with a pair of steals — including a critical one late in transition as LeBron James brought the ball up. While Olynyk isn’t the best defender and is someone Miami wants to avoid ending up on Anthony Davis and LeBron too often in isolation, he opens up their offense in a way that no other big on the Heat roster can.

Olynyk is a legit threat from deep as a 40 percent shooter on the season, and in Game 3 he was 3-of-5 from downtown and 5-of-9 from the field.

His presence helps to push L.A. to playing small-ball — Howard was the only center to play in this one and played just 15 minutes — and Miami took advantage of those small-ball lineups by drawing Davis out of the paint or attacking Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma in switches. We’ll have to see if Olynyk can continue this level of play for the rest of the series, but expect his minutes to be extended, certainly until Adebayo returns, and even after he figures to get the most burn off the bench until Spo sees some adjustment he doesn’t like from the Lakers.

Tyler Herro’s 17 points will, rightfully, get headlines as he came up big again late alongside Butler, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from the rookie swingman — who also needed 18 shots to get there. Olynyk’s production, however, is a much bigger deal because that’s the third option that Miami needs with their top guys out and in Game 3 he gave them exactly what they needed.

3. The Lakers need to clean things up

It was a disastrous game for the Lakers, who seemed unable to match Miami’s effort in Game 3 and were simply too sloppy to have a chance. They opened the game with turnover after turnover, finishing with 19 on the game to help fuel the Heat offense with transition opportunities. Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 13 of those, with James having eight by himself, in a horrible performance from the Lakers two top stars. Davis finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 33 minutes of play, battling foul trouble and just not looking like the assertive, dominant force we saw in the first two games.

James had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, so his numbers were certainly there, but his impact simply wasn’t what we’re accustomed to, in large part because of the turnovers. Miami did a great job to keep the Lakers stars off of the free throw line, particularly late, as they had just 11 combined and Davis accounted for just two of those. It was, for lack of a better word, an unacceptable performance from Davis in a game where the Heat didn’t have anyone to match up with him one on one, but did a great job of sending timely doubles and pushing him off his spot so he didn’t catch the ball with good positioning.

The Lakers got some excellent bench contributions from Morris and Kuzma, who had 19 points each and effectively kept L.A. in the game with their shooting, but they were the lone bright spots in an otherwise dim night for a Lakers team that had a chance to put this series to bed. It looked as though the Lakers — like, admittedly, many of us — felt like all they needed to do was flip the switch and they could erase any Miami lead with their talent advantage. However, Miami showed they still have plenty of talent to go along with their will down the stretch, and now the Lakers have let the Heat not only get a win but build confidence going forward with the potential bump of the return of one of their top players.