With Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo again sidelined with injuries for Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals, not many people were giving the Miami Heat much of a chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. But Jimmy Butler put the team on his back and delivered a performance for the ages, scoring 40 points and adding 13 assists and 11 rebounds to lead the Heat to a 115-104 victory.
Not only did Jimmy Butler keep the Heat in the series, he also joined Jerry West and LeBron James as the only players in history to put up a 40-point triple-double in the NBA Finals. Let’s see how his performance matches up.
Jerry West-1969 NBA Finals Game 7-42 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists
With the 1969 NBA Finals tied 3-3, LA Lakers legend Jerry West knew this might be his best chance to finally beat the Boston Celtics. Since joining the league in 1960, West had played the Celtics five times in the NBA Finals and lost all five series. So with the chance to finally get the monkey off his back, the man that would later become the logo of the league went off.
West played all 48 minutes and scored 42 points, shooting 14-for-29 (.483) from the floor and 14-for-18 (.778) from the free-throw line, and added 13 rebounds and 12 assists. And it still wasn’t good enough as the Celtics came out on top, 108-106, to claim their 11th NBA title in 13 years. Jerry West, however, was named NBA Finals MVP in the first year the award was given out and remains the only man in history from the losing team to receive the honor.
LeBron James-2015 NBA Finals Game 5-40 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists
With the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors tied 2-2, LeBron James did everything he could to lead the Cavs to victory in Game 5. But like Jerry West in 1969, his 40-point triple-double wasn’t good enough.
James shot 15-for-34 (.441) from the floor, including 3-for-8 (.375) from the 3-point line, and 7-for-9 (.778) from the foul line to score 40 points, marking the third time in the series he’d hit the 40-point mark. LeBron also added 14 rebounds and 11 assists but Stephen Curry, who scored 37 points of his own, and the Warriors were just too much and walked away with a 104-91 win and a 3-2 lead in the series. James fell one assist shy of a triple-double in Game 6 with 32 points, 18 rebounds, and nine assists but that effort wasn’t good enough either as Golden State closed out the series with a 105-97 victory.
Jimmy Butler-2020 NBA Finals Game 3-40 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds
Jimmy Butler’s 40-point triple-double on Sunday night in Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals is actually the most impressive of the three on this list. For one, his team actually won the game. But his shooting stats were also far better than those of Jerry West or LeBron James.
Jimmy Butler shot an incredible 14-for-20 (.700) from the floor and 12-for-14 (.857) from the foul line to reach 40 points on the number. Do the math and you’ll notice that he didn’t hit a single 3-pointer in the game, mainly because he didn’t even attempt one, becoming the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2002 to reach the 40-point mark without attempting a shot from beyond the arc.
In adding 13 assists and 11 rebounds, Jimmy Butler became the first-ever player (opponent or teammate) to have more points, assists, and rebounds than LeBron James in an NBA Finals game. Sunday night marked James’ 52nd NBA Finals game and he ended the night with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, all team highs for the Lakers.
Including his assists, Jimmy Butler accounted for 73 of Miami’s 115 points, the second-highest mark in NBA Finals history, trailing only Walt Frazier, who accounted for 74 points in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals for the New York Knicks. Frazier scored 36 points and dished out 19 assists that night as the Knicks defeated the Lakers to win their first championship.
Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat will look to even up the 2020 NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference