2020 NBA Finals | Lakers vs. Heat

Film Study: 5 plays that tell the biggest story of Heat's Game 3 win

Jimmy Butler sparked Miami with his ability to find open shooters against L.A.

Jimmy Butler didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in Game 3 of The Finals on Sunday, becoming the first player in 18 years to score 40 points in a Finals game without a long-range shot. But Butler was surrounded by shooters in the Miami Heat’s 115-104 victory, in which his team scored 87 points on 67 possessions (1.3 per) over the final 33 minutes.

With two Miami starters out the last two games, Butler has had additional pick-and-roll duties, while also taking on the high-post, offensive-hub role of Bam Adebayo. On Sunday, he had the ball in his hands for more than half of the 22.3 minutes the Heat had the ball, and he accounted for 73 of the Heat’s 115 points via his own scoring and his 13 assists.

Butler assisted on seven of the Heat’s 12 3-pointers, and his passes led to three of the other five. There were the standard, Adebayo-esque, dribble-handoff assists (here’s one), and the relationship worked both ways as the attention paid to the Heat’s shooters allowed Butler to get into the paint and to the free throw line.

Here are some examples of how Butler and his shooter got good shots in Game 3:

1. Shooters make the best screeners

Butler’s first two points came off a simple “pistol” action in which Tyler Herro set a screen along the right sideline. Danny Green and LeBron James weren’t on the same page and Butler got to the rim before Anthony Davis could help from the weak side.

Herro screen for Butler

Midway through the second quarter, the Lakers (Green and Alex Caruso) botched another switch when Butler faked a handoff to Kendrick Nunn, allowing Butler to get into the paint a draw a foul from the recovering Green.

2. Roll gravity

Early in the second quarter, the Heat ran their standard sideline out-of-bounds play, with Robinson inbounding the ball to Butler and getting a back-screen from Nunn. The Lakers defended it well until Robinson came out of the corner to take a handoff from Butler. Rajon Rondo got caught behind the play, Green stepped up to stop Robinson, and Kyle Kuzma left Jae Crowder in the weak-side corner to help on Butler’s roll to the rim. Robinson kicked out to Crowder for a wide-open 3.

Butler hand-off to Robinson

3. Taking advantage of the switch

With a little less than four minutes to go in the second quarter, Duncan Robinson got the first of his three 3-pointers when James hesitated to step out on a handoff from Butler. Five possessions later, Butler handed off to Herro and Caruso stayed with him on the roll to the rim. James again gave the shooter some space, but Herro saw the mismatch inside and Butler got one of his easiest buckets of the night.

Butler beats Caruso in the post

4. Pick-and-pop

The Lakers erased a 14-point deficit and took a two-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Butler then got a tough, one-on-one bucket against James. On two of the next four Miami possessions, the Lakers had trouble defending the same action (run in opposite directions) where Robinson and Kelly Olynyk set sequential screens for Butler. On the first, both James and Morris followed Butler into the paint, leaving Olynyk alone on the perimeter for a pick-and-pop 3.

Olynyk pick-and-pop 3

5. Slip to the rim

When the Heat ran the same action the other way, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope switched the first screen and Davis was ready to switch the second. But Olynyk slipped to the basket, Butler threw a deft bounce pass and Davis didn’t react quickly enough.

Olynyk slip to

Pick your poison

It appears unlikely that Dragic will be back for Game 4 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC). Adebayo has been upgraded to questionable, but that’s still two steps away from available. Butler, meanwhile, will have a difficult time replicating the one-on-one scoring success he had in Game 3 as the Heat try to even the series.

That doesn’t mean the Heat will be any easier to defend. With Butler’s ability to get into the paint and to the line, along with the shooting he has around him, the Lakers’ defense will continue to be tested. The 120.5 points per 100 possessions the Heat have scored over the last two games is the most the Lakers have allowed over two games in these playoffs and the most the Heat have scored over two games since late February.

If they can come close to that mark on Tuesday, this series might get really interesting.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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