After Game 2, Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler said his team would need to play near perfect basketball in order to beat the Lakers.
Perfection might not be attainable, but in chasing it, he was excellent.
Butler scored a playoff-career high 40 points and the depleted Miami Heat stunned the Los Angeles Lakers 115-104 in Game 3, to reset the best-of-seven NBA Finals series at 2-1.
"Everybody remembers winning," said Butler after the victory. "They don't care how many points you score, they just care if you won or lost. We're all about winning. I hope the next game I score zero, but we win, so I can come up here and say the same thing."
The Lakers led briefly in the fourth quarter, but Butler provided the last dagger in their comeback attempt with a driving layup to put the Heat up 109-100 with 1:13 remaning.
Without two starting players in center Bam Adebayo (shoulder) and point guard Goran Dragic (foot), Butler filled the stat sheet in easily the best performance of his career.
Butler finished with 40 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. He played 44 out of a total 48 minutes, and shot 20 total free throws.
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Butler joined LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal in 2002 as the only players in NBA Finals history to lead both teams in points, rebounds, and assists in a game.
"It means a lot," Butler said of the victory with his injured teammates watching and cheering him on from the bench. "I go to war for those guys because whenever they're out there they go to war for me. They asked me to go out there and win and tonight we did that. Hopefully, that gives us an extra couple days and they'll be back."
With his effort, the Heat are back in the series, with reinforcements on the way, as Adebayo is expected to be cleared to play in Game 4 on Tuesday.
The Lakers will likely walk away from this game thinking they've blown a great opportunity to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
LeBron James led the Lakers with a team-high 25 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists in the loss, but he didn't get much on Sunday night from his superstar teammate.
After scoring a combined 66 points in Games 1 and 2, Anthony Davis was in foul trouble throughout Game 3, finishing with just 15 points in 32 minutes.
""It definitely took me out and put too much pressure on the other guys," said Davis of playing with foul trouble.
James thought it made him more passive.
"The foul trouble made him a little passive because he wanted to be out on the floor but he couldn't be his same aggressive self," he said of Davis. "I think the foul trouble slowed him down tonight."
With their backs against the wall, the Miami Heat came out strong in Game 3. The Heat were the more physical and aggressive team, especially on the defensive end, forcing the Lakers into 10 first quarter turnovers as they went on an 11-0 run, and jumped out to an early 13-point lead.
"They were very active defensively," said James. "I can't have five turnovers in the first half. You just can't turn the ball over against that team and I take full responsibility for that."
The Lakers were 0-for-7 from the field to start the second half, and Miami's lead remained in the 12-14 point range until the Lakers made a late push at the end of the third quarter to cut it down to just 85-80 at the end of three.
After back-to-back three-pointers by Markieff Morris tied the game at 89-89 with 9 minutes remaining, Rajon Rondo drove to the hoop for a left-handed layup that gave the Lakers their first lead of the second half, 91-89. That's when Butler took over.
Things quickly turned towards the Heat's favor, as they closed the game on a 26-13 run to get back into the series. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Butler could be seen and heard on the court shouting, "they're in trouble!"
"It's a lot of bright lights and it's a big stage," said Butler when asked about his words after the game. "Nobody has been here before, but we're coming to realize we belong here. Everybody is just becoming more and more comfortable as the days go by."
Butler might think the Lakers are in trouble, but in actuality, the Lakers have dropped at least one game in all four playoff series this postseason. After each and every loss, the Lakers respond with a statement victory in the next game.
"We learn from our mistakes pretty quick. We've done a great job throughout this postseason making adjustments and implementing them on the floor," said James. "We have an opportunity to take a commanding lead on Tuesday and we relish that opportunity."
Should that be the case in Game 4, the Lakers will be on the precipice of an NBA record 17th championship.
Should they lose, the championship will shrink to a best-of-three with Miami holding all the momentum.