Thanks to a dominant fourth-quarter showing in Game 3, the Miami Heat have now taken a commanding 3-0 series lead over the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 30 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Even more impressive is that in that dominant fourth quarter, Butler himself outscored the Bucks 17-13.
After the game, Heat centre Meyers Leonard, fresh off of his first action of the series, raved about his team and Butler specificially.
"We have dogs in our locker room," Leonard told reporters. "Starting with Jimmy, Goran (Dragic), who's proven, Bam (Adebayo), a young superstar, I personally can see it. I wish I was out there doing more - I'm not right now. However, I said it in our prep, I was like 'look, we are a nightmare matchup for them' and I believe that. I know that."
He supported his assertion of being a matchup nightmare by adding that in Butler, the Heat have the best player on the floor at all times.
"We have the best player in this series, number one. We have winners in this locker room, and that's that. We are game planning and executing with precision and at the end of the day, we've got guys that fight and want to win and that's just as simple as it is."
Leonard's statement is a big one, considering the fact that on the other end, Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is the newly-minted Defensive Player of the Year and a favourite to win MVP for a second consecutive season.
While Leonard is supposed to say his teammate is better, the conviction with which he spoke suggested a genuine belief in his words.
Here's how the numbers tell the story:
|Jimmy Butler||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
There's the numbers, and then there's the eye test.
Butler's scoring average in the series took a hit when he finished with just 13 points (on 3-for-8 shooting) in Game 2 but it's worth noting that two of those 13 points came in the form of free throws to deliver the win after time had expired.
That Miami won on a night in which Butler wasn't at his best as a scorer emphasizes the other ways in which he impacts this team, including his defence, playmaking and leadership.
Just one win away from their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2014, Leonard says this team is still as focused as ever.
"Now, we've still got one game to go - make no mistake. All of our guys will be locked in, we're gonna make the tweaks that we need to make but we feel good about who we are as a team from top to bottom… everybody's important. And again, I'm just constantly inspired by these guys."
Miami will look to complete the sweep of Milwaukee in Game 4 on Sunday, Sept. 6 at 3:30 p.m. on Sportsnet.
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