With all due respect to a Lakers team that was taking care of business, one of the most unfortunate subplots through two games of the NBA Finals was that after all Jimmy Butler had conquered and overcome in his career, the Heat star was robbed of a chance to truly compete for a title in his first Finals appearance, due to Game 1 injuries suffered by Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic.
So much for that.
We still don't know how soon Adebayo and Dragic will be back on the court - and their value to this Heat team is irreplaceable - but as we were reminded in Sunday's Game 3, nothing about this Heat team is as immeasurable as Butler's indomitable will.
Butler was sensational in a Game 2 loss when his offensive initiation was the only thing that kept Miami chugging. What he did in Game 3, though, was the stuff of basketball immortals.
Butler was criticized early in Game 3 for abandoning scoring opportunities on his drives and kicking it out rather than being more aggressive. But just like in Game 2, it was evident from the jump that whether he was scoring or moving the ball, every single thing Miami accomplished offensively stemmed from Butler.
It was obvious to Butler, too, which is why the five-time All-Star pleaded with head coach Erik Spoelstra not to pull him with 4:16 remaining in the first quarter and Miami up 22-9. Butler lost that argument, and the Heat proceeded to lose the next 2:14 of game time by a score of 6-0 before Butler checked back in.
Butler didn't sit again until the opening 45 seconds of the fourth quarter, as with Miami's season (and championship hopes) on the line, Spoelstra wouldn't dare disrupt his star player while Butler was in the process of crafting one of the great basketball masterpieces of our time.