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NBA Finals: Five takeaways from the Miami Heat's 115-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals

Tom D'Angelo
Palm Beach Post
Lakers forward Markieff Morris (88) fouls Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the second quarter of Sunday's Game 3 of the NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena. [Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports]

Jimmy Butler believed the Miami Heat could make the NBA Finals a series, even when everyone was counting them out after Game 2.

And now, mainly because of his vintage performance in Game 3, the brooms are back in the closet.

Butler’s triple double led the Heat to a 115-104 victory Sunday in the Disney Bubble, cutting the Lakers lead in the series to 2-1.

Butler had 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, including 10 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers were making their last run.

“How else do you say it other than Jimmy F-ing Butler,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Heat were without center Bam Adebayo (neck) and point guard Goran Dragic (foot) for the second consecutive game.

Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Herro each scored 17 points and Duncan Robinson had his best game of the Finals with 13 points.

LeBron James led the Lakers with 25 points. But Anthony Davis was far from the player who dominated the first two games. In foul trouble much of the game, Davis had 15 points and just five rebounds. He had as many turnovers (5) as points in the first half.

Here are our five takeaways:

Butler takes over: Butler has been the best Heat player, by far, in the series. But in Game 3, he was the best player on the court.

Butler was aggressive from the opening tip with his first two baskets on dunks and building a first-half line that most players would take for an entire game: 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, six rebounds and six assists.

But that was just the appetizer to what would be an unforgettable second half. Butler continued to attack the basket in the final 24 minutes, including an aggressive move late in the third quarter that was challenged by his former Bulls teammate Rajon Rondo and resulted in Butler going down hard. After rolling around for a few seconds, Butler bounced up and shot what appeared to be an approving look at Rondo.

In the fourth quarter, Butler and James met up at the rim and after both players hit the floor, James was called for the foul. James got up complaining that Butler elbowed him. Didn’t work.

“This is what he wanted, this is what we wanted,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a supreme elite competitor and we needed it. This was a very desperate urgent game and he was doing it on both ends of the court putting his imprint on every aspect of this game.”

Heat answer Lakers to get back in series: The Heat led the entire third quarter, building their biggest lead of the series, 14 points, by scoring the first 10 points to start the half. Miami then kept the Lakers from flipping the momentum while taking a five-point lead into the final 12 minutes.

All that changed early in fourth quarter when the Lakers went on an 8-0 run, keyed by back-to-back Markieff Morris 3 pointers, to take their first lead of the half, 91-89. But just when it appeared the Heat were one more game closer to being swept, they answered and made this a series.

A Butler jumper in the lane and consecutive 3 pointers by Olynyk and Herro gave Miami a six-point lead. The Lakers never really challenged after that, thanks to, who else, Butler, who scored eight straight points to give Miami a nine-point lead with 1:13 to play.

“I think we realize we belong,” Butler said.

Let’s get physical: One of the Heat’s many issues the first two games is that they were not as physical as the Lakers. LA had its way under the basket with 25 more rebounds than Miami, including a 25-11 lead on the offensive boards.

That all changed in Game 3. Butler challenged his teammates to become more aggressive on the boards and they listened.

The Heat were outrebounded 43-37, but they were were not hurt on the boards like in the first two games. Miami was within two rebounds of the Lakers going into the fourth quarter. The key was Miami limiting the Lakers’ second-chance points. Miami actually outscored L.A. in second-chance points, 5-4.

“We rebounded,” Butler said. “That is going to be the key going forward. We’ve got to keep those guys off the boards, limit their second-chance points.”

Olynyk stepping up: More than any other player, Olynyk has taken advantage of the extra playing time with Adebayo and Dragic nursing their injuries.

Olynyk had 24 points in Game 2, coming off the bench after Meyers Leonard started in Adebayo’s spot. In Game 3, he was 5 of 9 from the floor, including 3 of 5 on 3s and added seven rebounds. Again, off the bench.

Olynyk had seven points and three rebounds in the fourth quarter, including a 3 pointer that gave Miami the lead (94-91) it never relinquished.

“They play big and we need to space the floor to let Jimmy operate," Olynyk said. "We know that our time is coming and I know right now is the time I could step up and make some plays.”

Heat being “responsible” with Bam, Goran: Spoelstra said holding out Adebayo and Dragic for Game 3 was “the most responsible thing to do right now.”

Adebayo, who suffered a strained neck during the third quarter of Game 1, warmed up before Game 3, perhaps giving hope that he could give it a try in Game 4.

“They both are making progress,” Spoelstra said. “They're not ready to play or compete in this game at this intensity level. But they really want to be there because they love their teammates and they have put their heart and soul into this. Their teammates really feel the same way.”