There have been plenty of remarkable, memorable performances by stars on teams that lost the NBA Finals.
Allen Iverson against the Shaq Lakers. Charles Barkley against the Jordan Bulls.
Even LeBron James against the dynastic Warriors, the years he didn’t win.
So that’s what James and the Lakers, still prohibitive favorites, need to do now:
They must reduce Jimmy Butler to a mere footnote in Finals history.
That won’t be easy after Butler scored 40 points with 11 rebounds and 13 assists, most while guarding or being guarded by James. He’s on a mission, even without two of the Heat’s top three players, one of whom might return for Game 4: center Bam Adebayo. Unfortunately, it does not appear Goran Dragic (foot) will be back in this series since he could end up doing lasting damage.
The latest odds at SPREADS.CA:
Here’s how the Lakers get back on track after the Game 3 loss:
- Show up early. We told you in the last preview that there was a chance the Lakers would be lax at the start. They were. They had 10 turnovers in the first quarter and, while they survived it because the Heat shot poorly, it set the tone for a difficult game. James has been directly challenged now by Butler, and he tends to respond with anger and aggression. But it’s really about Anthony Davis. He can’t sleepwalk again. He’s too important.
- Don’t overreact to Butler. The defiant Heat swingman has had some games close to this, but he doesn’t tend to follow them up with something similar. He may feel his way into the game some, hoping the Lakers overplay him so he can set up the Heat’s shooters. And those shooters figure to be better, after under-performing their season-long percentages in all three NBA Finals games. Particularly Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, after both got going
a bit late in Game 3.
- Test Bam if he plays. It’s not clear that Adebayo will be allowed to play, after the Heat denied him in Game 3. But if he is, he may be limited by his neck and shoulder. Los Angeles needs to go at him to get him to pick up cheap fouls and force the Heat deeper into the bench. Both Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk did good work Sunday, but Miami would rather not rely upon them.
The Better Bet: Lakers by 5. They’ll figure enough out and pull out a close win.
-- by Juicy J