2020 NBA Finals | Lakers vs. Heat

24 thoughts on Game 3 of The Finals

Too soon to put LeBron-AD duo on pedestal; Butler puts Heat on back; Heat's bench responds

ORLANDO, Fla. — LeBron James’ legacy and Anthony Davis’ legend.

That’s what was supposed to be on the line Sunday night in the bubble with the Lakers poised to take a commanding 3-0 lead over the Miami Heat in The Finals.

Or at least that was the narrative going into the game.

> Finals Game 4: Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET on ABC

The conversation went from could they or would they, and when they’re done, where do they fit all time, and are they the next generation Shaq and Kobe?

I think it’s a bit premature to put this partnership on that level after just one Finals appearance. And, apparently, so did Miami’s Jimmy Butler.

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Built for this.

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We’ve got a series folks!

And as Butler made clear at the end of the night …

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24 — No idea what Lakers team is is on the floor to start the game. No clue! The Heat with an early 22-9 lead (courtesy of nine early Lakers ’turnovers).

23 — I love the Heat coming out with the requisite fire to make this game more interesting than the previous two. Didn’t expect any retreat from them — not with Udonis Haslem breathing. No lead is safe, of course. But they’ve tried playing from behind already in this series. Might as well try and push it for as long as they can.

22 — It was sweet while it lasted. Kyle Kuzma’s crier 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer cut Miami’s lead to just three (26-23). The Lakers snoozed early and their 10 turnovers (resulting in 11 points for the Heat) should have been a back-breaker and probably would have been … anywhere but in the bubble. The normal rules (to just about everything) do not apply here!

21 — Kuzma’s not done. A quick nine points off the bench for him to spark the Lakers. The belief in Kuzma by the Lakers is paying off nicely in this series. He hadn’t really had a breakout stretch since the restart, so his timing right now is perfect. And I still think he’s the ideal solution for the Lakers’ third scorer (6-foot-10 scorers with 3-point range tend to come in handy in the NBA).

20 — The patience AD shows with how the Lakers operate on offense goes against everything we’ve come to believe about superstar players in this league. And it’s one of the best things about his game, if you ask me. The man never seems to stress his touches. Just stays in the flow.

19 — While the rest of the world is focused on the Lakers, Jimmy Butler continues rocking to his own beat. Heat up 42-37 behind Butler’s 15 points (6-for-8 shooting), five assists, four rebounds and two steals. Meanwhile AD’s in foul trouble and LeBron still can’t catch a rhythm. With so little margin for error, Butler’s going to need some serious support tonight. Anyone out there?

18 — Butler is out here playing his guts out trying to keep the Heat in this series … and LeBron is just casually picking the Heat apart (with AD on the bench in foul trouble). He’s keeping the Lakers within a basket or two as the first half winds down. Heat up 58-54 at halftime, but there’s nothing severe about this cushion.

17 — Instead of clowning Earl Smith (no relation, that I know of) in The Finals, we choose to celebrate the man, the myth and the legend that is J.R. Smith for doing what he does …

16 — Give it up one more time for Jimmy Butler! Showing up and showing out with the Heat’s season the line. Don’t know if it’ll be enough to save them or not. But the effort is there.

15 — AD with his fourth foul. Heat cranking up from deep. A 66-54 lead with 9:17 to play feels like a movement, like momentum. Folks were busy writing the Heat off the past few days. But they’re showing the fight you’d expect from a team that went through the Eastern Conference playoff field the way they did. We know they are resilient and have the ingredients (save for good health) needed to turn this into a series. Now we’re going to see if the Lakers have what it takes to bounce back and snatch that momentum away. This is The Finals drama I love.

14 — The Lakers’ starting backcourt went scoreless until the 7:36 mark of the third quarter (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finally hit a 3-pointer). Whew. Ugly stuff until then from the first five as a unit.

13 — Butler on triple-double alert (25-8-8) with 5 minutes to play in the third and the Heat clinging to the lead. His performance is D-Wade approved, btw …

… and Kevin Love, too!

12 — This seems like a “Playoff Rondo” special! (I know he hates the nickname, but it is good.)

11 — I agree with Draymond: We could have this conversation about several players who showed up for their teams at the most important time of 2019-20. There’s Denver’s Jerami Grant, Boston’s Marcus Smart and … sorry, back to Game 3.

10 — Best player on the floor though three quarters tonight? Hands down, it’s Jimmy Butler!

9 — So, who closes strongest?

8 — Lakers bench rises up. Markieff Morris’ 3-pointers. Rajon Rondo’s activity and attacking mentality. Lakers go up 91-89 with 8:55 to play. This shaping up as a potential roster win, and a critical one it will be if they finish. The vets smell the opportunity. You can sense it in the way they are playing right now.

7 — This is basically what we always ask for this time of year. #BestonBest

6 — I can see this … sort of.

5 — LeBron is doing LeBron things, as usual. Butler is putting on an absolute show, carrying the Heat in every way imaginable. One of the great free-agent signings in recent NBA history.

4 — Something tells me Jimmy doesn’t really care.

3 — How about 45 minutes, 40 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for Jimmy F. Buckets. An absolute masterpiece to put the Heat on the map in this series. Not a stunner, by any stretch as we know he’s more than capable of this. But it was an absolute masterpiece of a performance.

2 — We’ve got a series. Any chance Bam Adebayo comes back by Tuesday? Will his shoulder be better by Friday’s Game 5? Just talking out loud here as the entire series shifts into a completely different mode after this effort from Butler, Kelly Olynyk (17 off the bench after his 24 in Game 2), Tyler Herro (17), Duncan Robinson (13) and Jae Crowder (12). You had to know these guys weren’t about to go out and get swept.

1 — It was his night, folks! Game 4 on Tuesday night becomes a colossal affair given the two-day break between Game 4 and Friday’s Game 5.

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We up to something 😎 #WINNING

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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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