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Jimmy Butler makes it a series: Heat beat Lakers in Game 3

Miami's Jimmy Butler scores on a layup against Lakers guard Danny Green during the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Sunday.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler scores on a layup against Lakers guard Danny Green during the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Sunday night.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Maybe there is some magic in the home games here, even if no one is really at home.

Jimmy Butler certainly must have felt it.

The Miami Heat won Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, their first home game of the championship series, to prevent the Lakers from taking an insurmountable 3-0 lead. The Heat notched a 115-104 win behind an inspired performance by Butler, who scored 40 points while making 14 of 20 shots and notched a triple-double with 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

It was the first time in a Finals game that any player had more points, rebounds and assists than James, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was also the third time in NBA history that a player had notched a 40-point triple-double in the Finals. The other two were a former Laker and a current Laker — Jerry West and LeBron James — each happening during a loss.

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James has a deep appreciation for Butler.

“Love it, love it,” James said after the game about the chances he has to compete against Butler. “One of the best competitors we have in our game. We love that opportunity. For me personally, I don’t know how many more opportunities I’m going to have, so to be able to go against a fierce competitor like that is something I’ll look back on when I’m done playing. I’ll miss those moments.”

The Lakers lost to the Miami Heat 115-104 on Sunday night in the best-of-seven NBA Finals series. Here are the best photos from the game.

As for the series, James isn’t worried about that.

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“We’re not concerned,” James said. “We know we can play a lot better. We have another opportunity to take a commanding lead on Tuesday.”

The Lakers trailed for most of the game. While James led the team with 25 points, the next two leading scorers came of the bench with Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma each scoring 19. Anthony Davis, who got into foul trouble early, scored just 15 points with five rebounds and three assists. James had 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“We were getting confused on a lot of things,” Davis said of the Lakers’ defense. “They had wide-open looks that they missed early and made late from three. We let Jimmy get into a strong hand too many times, getting to the basket, getting and-ones or getting to the free-throw line. We were letting guys get to the rim easily with no contact. Our low-man help wasn’t there tonight.”

As if they hadn’t heeded their own warnings, the Lakers fell behind early.

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Their start was fine — at least for the first play — a lob to Dwight Howard for a score off the opening tip. But then they scored just seven points in the next seven-and-a-half minutes. Miami capitalized and took a 13-point lead for the second time this series.

A flurry of turnovers from the Lakers’ superstars contributed. In all, the Lakers committed 20 turnovers for 21 Heat points, with James committing eight and Davis five.

“It was just about execution, but again credit their defense,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “They played a terrific game, forced a lot of those turnovers.”

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Highlights from the Lakers’ loss to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.

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James and Davis combined for eight turnovers in the first quarter. Davis picked up two fouls and didn’t score, spending a significant portion of the period on the bench. Two minutes into the third quarter, Davis had earned his fourth foul.

“One of the shots he made when he had four fouls, they still tried to slide underneath him and get him a fifth in the third,” James said. “I think the foul trouble made him a little passive.”

Midway through the third quarter, James sat on the court with an exasperated look on his face and his hands raised in protest at a foul that wasn’t called while Davis stood nearby. Both of them watched the break go the other way. Tyler Herro scored at the other end, to give the Heat a 14-point lead with 8:33 left in the quarter as the overmatched Heat threatened to ruin any designs the Lakers had for a sweep.

There were many more moments after that point, though, when the Lakers could have taken control of the game.

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The Lakers cut the Heat lead to six points multiple times in the third quarter. They tied the score at 89 in the fourth. But from that point on, the Heat fed off their own energy and confounded the Lakers with their zone defense. With 8:56 left in the game, the Lakers took a two-point lead on a layup by Rajon Rondo.

But with 4:05 left, when Kuzma, who’d been productive all game, missed a three-pointer with the Lakers trailing 101-95, James looked deflated.

The Heat sealed their victory on a floater by Butler with 1:09 leftto put the Heat ahead by nine points. Butler sauntered back toward his teammates, the game out of the Lakers’ reach.

“It’s one loss,” Davis said. “We’re still up in the series. You know, like I said, we never want to get too high and we don’t want to get too low. But we’ll look at the film, and see where I can be better on both ends, see where we can be better as a team, come out Game 4 much better than we played tonight.”

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