2020 NBA Finals | Lakers vs. Heat

The Finals Stat, Game 3: Jimmy Butler controls the ball

The Miami Heat are very much alive in these NBA Finals after a surprising 115-104 victory in Game 3 on Sunday.

Playing without Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo for a second straight game, the Heat rode Jimmy Butler down the stretch after blowing a 14-point lead. The Lakers led by two with a little less than nine minutes to go, but the Heat outscored them 26-13 over the final 8:31, with Butler scoring or assisting on 21 of those 26 points.

Butler became just the third player in Finals history (joining LeBron James and Jerry West) to record a 40-point triple-double, finishing with 40, 11 rebounds and 13 assists.

One stat stood out from the rest as the Heat made this a 2-1 series with Game 4 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC).

The Basics
Game 3 LAL MIA
Points 104 115
Possessions 100 99
OffRtg 104.0 116.2
eFG% 51.9% 58.8%
FTA/FGA 0.253 0.288
TO% 20.0% 12.1%
OREB% 27.1% 15.4%
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions

OREB% = % of available offensive rebounds obtained

The stat

11.7 — Minutes for which Jimmy Butler had the ball in Game 3, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

The context

That’s more than double Butler’s average time of possession (5.6 minutes per game) in the playoffs prior to Sunday.

Butler’s usage rate of 32.7% was only his third-highest mark of these playoffs. But usage rate is just the percentage of a team’s possessions (while he’s on the floor) that a player ends with a field goal attempt, free throw attempt, or turnover.

The time of possession really tells you how much Butler controlled a Miami offense that had the fourth-most efficient game against the Lakers in these playoffs. Without Dragic and Adebayo in Game 2, Butler led both teams in time of possession at 8.6 minutes. In Game 3, he had the ball 35% more, once again on the floor for all but three minutes of game time. It was similar to LeBron James in the 2015 Finals after the Cavs lost Kyrie Irving to a knee injury.

Butler assisted on seven of the Heat’s 12 3-pointers, but his own scoring was all inside the arc. In fact, he became the first player to score 40 points in a Finals game without a 3-point attempt since Shaquille O’Neal did it five times in the Lakers’ three-peat from 2000-02.

He was just 1-for-4 from mid-range, but Butler’s 26 points in the paint were six more than James (16) and Anthony Davis (4) combined, as well as four more than Butler had ever scored in a game before (654 career games). He’d only scored 20-plus points in the paint three times prior.

Butler was 4-for-5 in the restricted area and 9-for-11 elsewhere in the paint, with those nine non-restricted-area paint buckets being more than the Heat had as a team in the first two games combined (seven).

Butler added 12 free throws on 14 attempts. He’s now averaged 68 free throw attempts per 100 shots from the field in the playoffs. That’s the fourth highest rate (lower than only those of three centers) among 95 players with at least 50 field goal attempts in the postseason. He’s attempted a postseason-high 169 free throws, nine more than Davis, who has 62 more field goal attempts.

Butler rested just 55 seconds in the second half and guarding James for most of it, but he still had enough gas in the tank to lead the Heat to their second most efficient quarter of the series with their season basically on the line. Before taking a 24-second violation on their final possession, the Heat scored 30 points on just 22 possessions in the game-deciding fourth quarter.

The Heat are still alive, they just had their best defensive game of the series, and by extending the series, they’ve increased the likelihood that they’ll get Dragic and/or Adebayo back to help Butler carry the load.

For one night, at least, he did just fine carrying it himself.

More numbers

The Finals: Traditional | Advanced | 4 factors | Players | Player shooting | Lineups

Matchups: Lakers on offense | Heat on offense

Lakers playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Heat playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

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

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