The Heat switching everything was not kind to LeBron James in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. On either side of the ball.
When LeBron had the ball, the Heat stopped giving up a soft switch against him and letting him target Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro. Instead, the young Heat guard would show out to cut off the drive, Jimmy Butler (or the primary defender) would recover, and then Duncan/Herro would scramble back to their man. Miami practically dared LeBron to give the ball up to Alex Caruso or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to beat them. They didn’t.
The bigger surprise was LeBron giving up soft switches when Butler had the ball in the fourth quarter. Butler had 15 ball screen set for him in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and got the switch on 13 of them, according to Second Spectrum. Rather than LeBron fighting through the pick and sticking with Butler, LeBron easily switched off and let Butler attack KCP or Kyle Kuzma or some other inferior defenders. Anthony Slater of The Athletic put together this video showing the switches.
The result was Butler having a legendary game.
Don’t expect that to happen in Game 4 Tuesday night.
“We also had some breakdowns defensively throughout the course of the game that we’re not accustomed to having,” LeBron said Monday. “Those will be cleaned up in Game 4.”
LeBron talked a lot about learning from losses (and wins), and saying this veteran Laker team is particularly good at bouncing back.
“We’re able to take a loss and understand why we lost.,” LeBron said. “Understand things that we should have done better and things that we can apply to the next game to be better. We’re right back at that moment once again with the opportunity to be better than we were in the game before.”
“We certainly had some breakdowns, but we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be to win a game in the NBA Finals against a great team,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said. “So communication was a part of that.”
Expect LeBron James the Lakers to play better in Game 4, but the Heat both have confidence now and likely will get Bam Adebayo back on the court.
We’ve got a real series on our hands after Game 3. LeBron and the Lakers want to get back to this being a coronation, which is what it will feel like if they can bounce back and win Game 4 comfortably.