By Sean Golonka
BU News Service
Following an upset win in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat will look to carry their momentum into a pivotal Game 4.
The Heat entered Game 3 as nine-point underdogs with two of their starters, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, ruled out due to injury. But after a huge performance from All-Star forward Jimmy Butler, the Heat secured a 115-104 victory on Sunday night.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke highly of Butler following his historic 40-point triple double.
“How else do you say it other than Jimmy f-ing Butler,” said Spoelstra. “This is what he wanted. This is what we wanted.”
With the Lakers currently leading the series two games to one, the Heat’s performance in Game 4 will be critical.
Only one team in NBA history has come back to win an NBA Finals series after going down 3-1, the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James.
But the Heat may receive a huge boost on Tuesday night if All-Star Adebayo can return to play. He suffered a neck injury in Game 1 of the finals and missed both Games 2 and 3.
On Monday, Adebayo was upgraded on the injury report from “doubtful” to “questionable.” In a press conference that same day, Adebayo said he’s “trying to get back as quickly as possible,” but he is still waiting for the medical staff to clear him to play. The 23-year-old is eager to get back on the floor for the biggest series of his career so far.
“It’s been difficult for me mentally because, you know, it hurts me that I can’t be out there and help my team,” Adebayo said. “You know, just trying to collect wins and be on the floor.”
Whether or not Adebayo returns to the lineup, the Heat will hope to build on Sunday’s win in Game 4 against the Lakers.
USA TODAY national NBA reporter Mark Medina joined ESPN Radio’s “Lakers Talk with Allen Silwa” to discuss the Heat’s victory.
“I think that this game illustrated that the Heat are a team that can still be reckoned with even if they don’t have Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo,” Medina said.
On the “Dan Patrick Show” on NBC Sports, Dan Patrick gave his thoughts on the Heat pushing forward in this series.
“A young team getting confidence is a dangerous team,” Patrick said about the Heat. “If Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo come back, maybe you can steal another game here, or two.”
But even if the Heat can capitalize on their successes from Game 3, the Lakers will likely be tough competition in Game 4. In this year’s playoffs, the Lakers are 3-0 following a loss, and they have won each of their previous series in a total of five games.
“We’re right back at that moment once again with the opportunity to be better than we were in the game before,” said Lakers star LeBron James in a press conference Monday. “So look forward to the opportunity tomorrow night.”