Jimmy Butler starred as the injury-hit Miami Heat took game three of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers 115-104.
Butler’s triple double of 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds helped lead the Heat to victory and they now trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“They can be beaten as long as we do what we are supposed to do,” he said.
“We are here to compete. We’re not going to lay down, we’re going to fight back in this thing.”
Game four of the series will take place on Tuesday (Wednesday 02:00 BST).
Butler inspires Heat to keep series alive
No NBA team has ever come back from a 0-3 series deficit to win in seven games, but the Heat were facing that prospect when they squandered a 14-point third-quarter lead.
But the talismanic Butler was able to haul them over the line, becoming just the third player in Finals history to score 40 points in a triple-double (double-digit figures in three of five categories – points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks), after opponent LeBron James and Lakers legend Jerry West.
He played 45 minutes for the second straight game as the Heat were once again without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, who were injured in game one.
The 31-year-old says he is ready to do everything it takes to help his team-mates.
“I go out there and I go to war for those guys because whenever they’re out there, they’re going to war with and for me,” he said.
“You’ve got to empty the tank on every possession. I’ve got the easy job. These guys create so much space for me, I get to shoot it whenever I’m open, pass it whenever I’m not. I really do have the easy job.
“But none of us, none of us are ever going to leave anything in the tank. We’re going to lay it all out there on the floor.”
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra says Butler is rightly considered to be one of the best players in the NBA.
“It’s really hard to analyse or describe Jimmy until you actually feel him between the four lines. He is a supreme, elite competitor and we needed it,” he said.
“This was a very desperate, urgent game and he was doing in on both ends of the court, putting his imprint at every important part of the game.
“He’s in the top percentile of this entire association in terms of conditioning and he got stronger as the game went on.”
Spoelstra also revealed it was Heat legend Dwyane Wade who persuaded Miami president Pat Riley to sign Butler from Philadelphia 76ers last year.
“Dwyane swore to us and looked Pat and I dead in the eye and said ‘This is your guy, this is the next guy,'” he added.
James praises ‘phenomenal’ Butler
James led the way for the Lakers with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but Anthony Davis was in foul trouble early on and managed just 15 points.
The Lakers trailed by as many as 13 points during a sloppy first quarter featuring 10 turnovers, but clawed it back to within four points by the half, only for Miami to move into a 14-point lead in the third.
The Lakers again fought back to lead 91-89 with under nine minutes to play, but Butler responded with eight straight points to move the Heat into a lead they never relinquished.
“I thought Jimmy was phenomenal,” said James. “He did everything that they needed for him to do tonight and he came through big time in a big-time game.”