Jimmy Butler produced a remarkable triple-double performance as the injury-hit Miami Heat stayed alive in the NBA Finals with a 115-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Without injured duo Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic and trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven Finals, the Heat had their backs against the wall amid suggestions they could be swept by the Lakers in Orlando, Florida.
But Butler had other ideas as the five-time All-Star posted 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in Game 3 to cut the Lakers’ series lead to 2-1 at Walt Disney World Resort on Sunday.
Butler became the first player with 40-plus points and 12-plus assists in an NBA Finals game since Jerry West in 1969, per Stats Perform.
LeBron James led the Lakers with 25 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and as many turnovers, while team-mate Anthony Davis (15 points) struggled following five turnovers and four fouls.
All eyes were on the top-seeded Lakers, with James and Davis looking to deliver a first championship to the storied franchise in 10 years.
But the Heat impressed from the outset as Lakers star Davis struggled in the third showdown.
Miami raced out to a 22-9 lead and eventually ended the opening quarter 26-23 ahead, with Davis scoreless after four turnovers in eight minutes of play.
James tried to keep the Lakers in the contest but Butler stayed hot, his 19 points, six rebounds and six assists ensuring the Heat led 58-54 at half-time.
The Lakers rallied early in the fourth quarter – back-to-back three-pointers from Markieff Morris (19 points) and Rajon Rondo’s layup helping to put the Los Angeles franchise ahead 91-89, having started the final period trailing 85-80.
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But Butler and the Heat had all the answers as they avoided going down 3-0 – Tyler Herro and Kelly Olynyk finishing with 17 points apiece, while Duncan Robinson (13) and Jae Crowder (12) made solid contributions.