NBA

NBA Finals: Jimmy Butler's outstanding Game 3 display in Stats Perform numbers

By Sports Desk October 05, 2020

The Miami Heat are back in the NBA Finals. Thanks, Jimmy Butler.

A sweep looked to be well and truly on the cards. Miami were without center Bam Adebayo and point guard Goran Dragic again in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers, which they went into 2-0 down.

They needed Butler to step up. He answered the call emphatically, changing the complexion of the series significantly ahead of Game 4 on Tuesday.

The five-time All-Star scored 40 points together with 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a determined, gritty 45 minutes on the floor, bringing the Heat back from the brink.

"How else do you say it other than Jimmy effing Butler," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.

"But this is what he wanted, this is what we wanted. It's really hard to analyse or describe Jimmy until you actually feel him between the four lines.

"He's a supreme, elite competitor and we needed it."

Among the greats

Butler became only the third player with a 40-point triple-double in Finals history and the first to get one in a winning effort. It was also the first time the Lakers have seen an opponent register a 40-point triple-double against them in playoff history.

The nine-year forward spent much of the second half guarding LeBron James, whose playmaking abilities helped Frank Vogel's side twice erase double-digit deficits and even move in front in the fourth quarter.

James is bidding to win his fourth ring against his former team but Butler made sure he will not waltz to the championship by joining LeBron (four) as the only Heat players with 40-point triple-doubles in the playoffs.

Butler's 40-point haul represents the joint-fifth most scored in the Finals while down 2-0 or 3-0, while it was the biggest in a triple-double when trailing by either of those scores.

Dominating in the paint

The Heat struggled to control Anthony Davis and James in the paint during the first two games but Butler turned that narrative on its head on Sunday.

He scored 24 of his 40 points in the paint, a total only bettered in the Finals since play-by-play data became available by LeBron (30 in 2017 Game 5 and 26 in 2018 Game 1) and Kyrie Irving (26 in 2017 Game 1).

Butler also made 12 free throws, the sixth time this postseason he has been in double digits from the stripe – more than any other player.

"In terms of the physicality, this is why Jimmy prepares the way he does that is so uncommon, year-round. Just to be able to take on that physicality, to make those plays, to be able to draw fouls and take contact and get up and be able to make those free throws," said Spoelstra.

"It's so settling when you have that type of guy in a really competitive game like this. It allows your other guys, and we're playing young guys, they can just be who they are, they don't have to worry about too much pressure or context.

"They can just be who they are when you have somebody like that that takes on all the pressure for them."

Just like Dwyane

Butler also poured in 40 points against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals – James (2011-12) and Dwyane Wade (2004-05 and 2005-06) are the only other Heat players to have hit that total twice in a single postseason.

There are further parallels between Butler and his fellow Marquette product Wade, too.

Wade scored 42 points in Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals, which proved to be the first of four straight wins as Miami rallied from 2-0 down to defeat the Dallas Mavericks.

"Obviously this was a very desperate, urgent game and [Butler] was doing it on both ends of the court, just put his imprint on every important part of the game," said Spoelstra.

"He's in the top percentile of this entire association in terms of conditioning and you saw he just got stronger as the game went on.

"But in terms of you saying a Marquette guy … Dwyane swore to us, he looked Pat [Riley] and I dead in the eye and said, 'This is your guy. This is the next guy.'"

Butler will be hoping to emulate Wade and lead the Heat to glory after a stunning Game 3 display.

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