Jimmy Butler, star of the Heat, is confident that Miami can fight the Lakers. (Mark J. Terrill)
Lake Buena Vista. – For the Los Angeles Lakers, the mission is simple: get two more wins and become NBA champions.
For the Miami Heat, the mission can be even simpler: get a win and turn this into a series for real.
The third game of the NBA Finals will be this Sunday, with the Lakers leading 2-0 in the title match, which brings the franchise closer to reaching a seventeenth championship that would tie a record, which they hold until now the Boston Celtics as the team with the most scepters in NBA history.
LeBron James is closer to his fourth ring and Anthony Davis perhaps a few days away from his first crown. They know the desperation comes from a beaten Miami team, as Game 3 is almost certainly a necessity for the Heat.
“We will never give up,” said Heat forward Jimmy Butler. “We're going to fight and we're going to keep going with this thing until the wheels come off. It has not finished. We're down 0-2 so we have to do something special. We are capable of doing it and I would not like to be in the trenches with other guys except the ones we have.
The thing is, Butler isn't sure who will be in those trenches this Sunday.
All-Star center Bam Adebayo missed Game 2 with neck and shoulder problems, while starting point guard Goran Dragic was also unable to play due to a torn left plantar fascia. Adebayo is hoping to be well enough to play on Sunday. Dragic desperately wants to be there, too, but the Heat are concerned about how painful it would be for him.
This Saturday was scheduled to be another day of treatment for Dragic and Adebayo. If the Heat get any of them back, it's an advantage.
“We can retire or fight like the Miami Heat do,” rookie guard Tyler Herro said. “We know what kind of team we are. We know what we are capable of. The next game, we are going to fight and make some plays. It will not be easy”.
The Lakers also say the same. However, they are making things look easy.
The biggest stat differences in the first two games are that the Lakers outscore the Heat by 27 points from the 3-point area (the total difference in points between the two teams after two games is 28) and a 25-11 lead. so far in offensive rebounds.
“We know we can be much better, and neither I nor AD (Anthony Davis), we are satisfied with just the victory,” said James. “We want to be great. We want to be great, as close as possible during the 48 minutes ”.
Lakers players other than James or Davis are shooting 39% combined, but the two Superstars are more than making up for that production, shooting 59% combined. If that's what it takes, Davis isn't complaining.
“We know we have something special with the two of us and this team, and we're just trying to capitalize on it,” Davis said.
Being in the NBA Finals 10 times now means James has seen just about everything, which also means he can sound any alarm he wants.
Only four teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit in the final. James was at the most recent club to do so, the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, who trailed 2-0 and 3-1 before coming back to beat the Golden State Warriors in seven games. That was LeBron's third title.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was an assistant coach in 2006, when Miami rebounded from a 2-0 win against Dallas for the championship that season. Like James, he knows it can be done.
What is needed? Whatever is needed. It's that simple, ”Spoelstra said. “If you want something enough, you will figure it out. Our group is extremely stubborn, persistent, and we just need to figure out how to beat this opponent. And that we respect the quality, the high quality of the opponent we are playing. You have to solve it and get over it ”.
There seems to be a distinct feeling outside of the Miami and Los Angeles locker rooms that the series is over.
There are already questions about whether James or Davis should be the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals . Whoever was in charge of the social media accounts for the National Association of Retired Basketball Players on Friday night predicted that the second game would be a 91-point victory for the Lakers.
The Lakers aren't celebrating early. But if Davis and James continue like this, the Lakers' chances are pretty good.
“You know, we're not there yet. We have a long way to go,” Lakers manager Frank Vogel said. “This is a very tough basketball team that we are playing against. We have great respect for them. But those guys are playing at an extremely high level and hopefully we can get two more wins. “