After two tough losses in the first two games of the NBA finals and the devastating injuries to Miami’s top two playoff scorers, center Bam Adebayo and point guard Goran Dragic, the Heat had their backs against the wall. Losing by double digits in both games, adjustments needed to be made and a victory was absolutely essential in game three. After an exciting battle that remained close all game in the teams’ third matchup, the Heat clutched the must win to give themselves a chance at winning the title.
In game two, a few key stats and aspects of the game explain why the Heat were defeated. First, the Lakers secured 16 offensive rebounds and had 21 second chance points. Without star center Bam Adebayo dominating the glass, the Heat struggled to rebound and thus created a lot of easy baskets for the Lakers. Second, the Heat scored just 1.8% of their points, (2 of 114) on fastbreaks. That tied the lowest percentage in fast break points in a single game for the Heat all year, and abandoning the fast pace tempo and transition scoring part of the Heat’s playstyle was crucial in their poor performance.
The Heat also remained in their zone defense for a vast majority of the game, which allowed the Lakers to become familiar with the strategy and look to exploit its weaknesses. Drawing up plays where the small guards for the Heat had to match up with Lebron and the Lakers big frontcourt, the Heat failed to address the problems the zone defense created.
Analyzing the improved performance of the Heat in game three, rebounding, defense, aggression and the man himself, Jimmy Buckets Butler were the reason for our victory. Even without Adebayo, the Heat kicked it up a notch and became way more aggressive. The entire team stepped up to get more rebounds, keep a high intensity pace, and play great defense. In this game, the Heat switched back and forth between their zone defense and man-to-man, keeping the Lakers on their toes. Miami played aggressive in man-to-man matchups and started forcing turnovers (10 in just the first 12 minutes of the game), taking away Laker opportunities and creating Heat buckets.
Another huge contributing factor to the game three win lay in the outstanding, triple double (40 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists) performance by All-Star Forward Jimmy Butler. Playing strong for a full 48 minutes of basketball, Butler was consistently dominant all game with 19 6 and 6 in the first half, and an equally impressive second half with a clutch fourth quarter push. Without Dragic and Adebayo, Butler knew he would need to carry some of the team’s weight and do whatever was necessary to win game three, and that is exactly what he did. All night, Butler played aggressively, attacking the rim at will, and then making the decision to either shoot, draw a foul, or kick it out for an open jump shot.
“I could care less about a triple-double,” Butler said in the post game interview. “We play this game to win. I’m glad my teammates got a lot of trust and faith in me to go out there and hoop like that, but like I always say, you guarantee me a win, I could care less.”
Going forward, the key to winning the series sounds easier said than done, shooting over 45% from the field and from the three. The way our unselfish passing offense works, the Heat don’t play too much isolation basketball, and always keep the ball moving, looking to score off a catch and shoot jump shot. If all players can consistently hit the open shots, LA will have a tough time keeping up with us.
Another major thing the Heat must do to win is keep changing up the defense from man to zone, and remain aggressive. Forcing turnovers and transition baskets are huge, not only because it will take away chances from the Lakers, but also because it will create easy buckets for Miami, especially important with Dragic and Adebayo injured.
Sports Editor for the Patriot Post and manager of the school’s athletic Twitter account, @AH__Athletics senior Sammy Rosenthal believes that the Heat needed to keep pushing the tempo down the stretch, and use their young athletic ability to get the Lakers tired. He also proposed that if our star center comes back, we could pull off a huge upset and win the finals.
“If Bam plays in Game 4, he is going to be my X factor as we move forward in this series,” Rosenthal said. “If the heat can build on their win in game three and then have Bam make his huge impact on rebounds and stopping Anthony Davis, then we’ve got a battle that will fall in the Heat’s favor.”
Starting Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Eastern time, The Heat will look to tie the series up 2-2 and keep their momentum moving forward on a push to win the finals.