Jimmy Butler fueled Heat’s win over Lakers in ways you can count — and in ways you can’t

When asked after Game 2 of the NBA Finals how the Heat could defeat the Lakers without two of their top players, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra gave an uncomplicated answer.

“What will it take? Whatever is necessary,” Spoelstra said. “It’s simple as that. If you want something badly enough, you’ll figure it out.”

In Sunday night’s Game 3, Jimmy Butler figured it out and then some. The All-Star forward delivered an all-time great Finals performance with Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic once again stuck on the bench, filling up the box score with 40 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks to lead the Heat to a 115-104 win. 

The numbers are eye-popping on their own, but even moreso in a historical context: 

And if you ask Butler about any of those numbers, he’ll give you the standard reply.

“Win. I don’t care about the triple-double,” Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols immediately following the Game 3 victory, which prevented the Heat from falling behind 3-0. “I don’t care about none of that. I really don’t.”

Game 3 is what happens when Butler’s talent and just-win-the-damn-thing mentality meet. The production was obviously there — James and Anthony Davis had a hard time matching Butler with their combined stats (40 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) — but so was the poise, the demeanor, the attitude.

Who else feels this good being down 2-0 and knowing key teammates aren’t available?

“It’s really hard to analyze or describe Jimmy until you actually feel him between the four lines,” Spoelstra said. “He is a supreme, elite competitor, and we needed it. Obviously this was a very desperate, urgent game, and he was doing it on both ends of the floor.”

Butler lives for competition and would gladly drop a shot of conflict into his overpriced coffee. At the end of the first quarter, James appeared to aim a few words at Butler. So what did Butler do after closing out a fourth quarter in which he scored 10 points and dished out five assists?

He told James he heard what he said about the Heat being “in trouble.”

That confidence permeates the rest of the locker room. Butler only gets mad at Duncan Robinson when he doesn’t shoot enough. He trusts 20-year-old Tyler Herro like he’s a 10-year NBA veteran. When he says the Heat have enough to win without Adebayo and Dragic, you may not completely believe it, but you believe that he completely believes it.

At least for one night, Butler was right. Now with Miami down 2-1, it’s possible he sees Adebayo and/or Dragic back by his side for Game 4.

If they aren’t quite ready, though, Butler won’t make excuses. Whether it’s points or assists, a calming voice or a kick in the ass, Butler will do what is necessary.

“I tell coach all the time, I’m ready for this,” Butler said. “The biggest stage? Whatever you ask me to do, I can do it.”

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