After losing Game 3 to the “Butlerball” Miami Heat, it’s now the Lakers’ turn to regroup and adjust. It doesn’t mean that they have to hit the panic button and retool their overall strategy, especially considering the fact that the Lakers even had the lead early in the fourth quarter of that Game 3 loss.
But it is also not the time to slouch and be complacent, either. LeBron James, of all people, has first-hand experience of what that will result in. Moreover, this is a Heat squad bannered by a brilliant head coach and a bunch of grizzled, seasoned veterans. Another loss for the Lakers will definitely tilt this series the other way, and Jimmy Butler and the Heat have been really good when the momentum is on their side.
Davis has to dominate
Except for the high turnover count, LeBron still had his usual excellent all-around game in the loss. But his co-star was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter, attempting a grand total of one shot the whole period. Anthony Davis wasn’t shooting badly in Game 3, but it was the lack of his attempts that spelled the difference.
To make matters worse, Davis only made it to the free throw line twice. That’s unacceptable, especially if you’re a hulking, mobile 7-footer who can always dominate on the inside. It’s not a coincidence that the Lakers won the two games that Davis dominated on offense, and feeding him the ball and letting him go to work should be the team’s priority in Game 4.
Limit the “Butlerball”
It’s not usual for the Heat to play through a single player for almost the whole game, but it certainly worked in Game 3. Butler’s 40-point triple-double means that he is not only handling the ball when scoring, but he also facilitated Miami’s offense. Everything went through Butler the last time out, and it’s time that the Lakers force him to give up the ball early before he attacks.
Instead of waiting for Butler in the lane before crowding him, the Lakers may want to show up on him as soon as he makes his first step with the ball. This forces the other Heat players to make the decisions off the ball, especially if you make spot-up shooters like Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder to put the ball on the floor.
It’s not a strategy that will prove to be sustainable the whole night, but the Lakers might want to employ this when the game is on the line in the payoff period.
It’s a make or miss league
The Lakers had wide-open three-point shots in Game 3, but they failed to make the most out of it. Danny Green cannot have another 0-4 clip from deep again, especially if those shots didn’t have defenders close to him. It’s not a secret that the Heat’s zone defense is vulnerable when guarding long-range shots, and we saw how quicker ball movements made it very difficult for the Heat defenders to scramble and close out.
For the Lakers to book a 3-1 lead in the 2020 NBA Finals, the team’s long-range gunners have to be locked in.