The Miami Heat, fueled by a 40-point triple-double from Jimmy Butler, clawed their way back into the NBA Finals with a 115-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
The undermanned, undersized, underdog Heat turned the tables on the Western Conference champions in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, cutting the deficit in the best-of-seven championship series to two games to one.
“I think we realized that we belong,” Butler said. “They can be beat, as long as we do what we’re supposed to do.”
Butler scored 40 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and handed out 13 assists to power a Heat team missing injured Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic for the second straight game.
The injuries to Adebayo and Dragic were a huge blow to the Eastern Conference fifth-seeded Heat’s hopes of pulling off a title upset, but Miami, with Butler leading the way, declined to back down.
Superstar LeBron James led the Lakers with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
But it was a tough night for Anthony Davis, who was in foul trouble early and finished with 15 points and just five rebounds in the defeat.
Game four is on Tuesday, and Sunday’s victory ensures a game five and increases the chances that Adebayo and Dragic could return before the series ends.
Butler added two blocks and two steals as he did a stellar job defending James, but said individual numbers are meaningless at this stage.
“Win,” he said of his total focus in game three, a mission no doubt sharpened by the knowledge that no NBA team has rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.
“I don’t care about the triple-double, I don’t care about none of that, I really don’t. I want to win. We did that, I’m happy with the outcome.”