Trailing 2-0 and ravaged by injuries to their starters, the Miami Heat vowed to find a way back into their NBA Finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jimmy Butler stressed his team needed “to play damn near perfect” to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, somehow occupying “three places at once” to accomplish the feat.
Erik Spoelstra pointed to “another level” paramount to putting Miami “in a position to have an opportunity; a real opportunity at the end”, while Tyler Herro assured “we can give more” for Game 3 of this NBA Finals best-of-seven series, live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Monday morning (12:15am).
It all sounds nearly impossible, right?
Perhaps it is, given Miami’s 2-0 deficit to the Lakers after Friday’s 124-114 loss, coupled with the prospect of All-Star forward Bam Adebayo (left shoulder and neck strain) and veteran guard Goran Dragic (torn plantar fascia) missing their second consecutive game due to injuries.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Saturday both will be listed as doubtful for Game 3.
“We are down 2-0,” said Tyler Herro, who filled in for Dragic in the starting line-up and finished with 17 points as the youngest starter in NBA Finals history (20). “The message is that our backs are against the wall, and how are we going to react? We can either fold or fight like the Miami Heat do. We know what kind of team we are. We know what we are capable of.”
The last time Miami endured a 2-0 NBA Finals deficit was in 2006 against the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat came back to win that series 4-2. In the midst of their sixth NBA Finals, having won titles in three of their previous five appearances, Miami are the first No 5 seed to reach the NBA Finals in league history.
So, the team’s confidence under such daunting circumstances is perhaps warranted, given their experience.
But the first two games have not provided much evidence that leans towards a Heat rebound. Sure, Miami are 6-3 on the heels of a loss since entering the NBA bubble, but they are also 0-5 this postseason when allowing more than 115 points. The Heat have allowed 116 points or more in each of the first two games.
Meanwhile, this red-hot Lakers squad has won 10 of their last 11 outings this postseason and owns a record of 12-1 in Games 2 through 5 so far in the playoffs.
“If you want something badly enough, you’ll figure it out,” Spoelstra said. “Our group is extremely stubborn, persistent, and we just need to figure out how to overcome this opponent. We respect the quality, high quality, of the opponent that we’re playing. You have got to figure it out and overcome it.”
It will not be easy.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 65 points in Game 2, after coming together for 59 in the opening game of the series. Los Angeles are 20-1 this season when their superstar duo combines for 60 points or more, and James owns a record of 24-0 when his team leads 2-0 in a postseason series.
James walked away from Game 2 disappointed with the way Los Angeles played defensively. So, despite his team’s 2-0 lead, James believes the Lakers can play better in Game 3 with Miami on the ropes.
“We are playing against a very dangerous team in Miami, where they have five guys on the floor that are a threat,” James said. “So, we have to continue to stay on our P’s and Q’s and cross our T’s and dot our I’s throughout the course of a game, and if we have a breakdown, be able to cover for one another. We definitely were not happy with our performance defensively [in Game 1]. Hopefully we can be – well, we know, not hopefully – we know we can be better in Game 3.”
Miami obviously, needs to be, too.
But that is a difficult ask for a team reeling from the losses of Adebayo and Dragic with no clear indication as to whether they will be ready to return for Game 3. Duncan Robinson finished as a team-worst minus-21 in Game 2, while taking just seven shots to draw the ire of Spoelstra. Meyers Leonard filled in for Adebayo in the starting line-up, and finished with seven points on just three shots, while Kelly Olynyk scored 24 points in 37 minutes.
Kendrick Nunn played 29 minutes to help fill the void left by Dragic’s absence and produced 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting.
The Heat are now 2-4 in their last six games.
James poses enough of a problem for Miami, coming off a near triple-double (33 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) in Game 2. Davis is averaging 33 points per game on 63.4 per cent on two-point attempts so far this series, joining Michael Jordan (34.5 points per game on 69.0 per cent from the field in 1991) as the only players ever to average 30 points or more per game on 60 per cent or better from the field through their first two career outings in the NBA Finals, according to research from Elias Sports Bureau.
Still, Miami appears to be undaunted by the enormity of the task ahead for Game 3.
“I think we just believe. We believe in one another,” Butler said. “We believe in what we put together, and we believe in what we do every day. Like I said at the beginning of this thing, we have got to play damn near perfect in order to beat those guys over there. We have yet to do it and if we don’t do it soon, it is not going to be pretty.”
Watch Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Los Angeles Lakers @ Miami Heat, live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Monday morning (12:15am)