Do you believe in the concept of trap games? While there’s never really been any scientific consensus about their existence, they are accepted almost as a matter of faith in sports circles. Maybe that makes us somewhat superstitious, but we’ve just seen it too many times. If you’re not familiar with the term, it goes something like this: a heavily-favored team on a winning streak is scheduled to play against a weaker, possibly shorthanded, opponent and somehow they end up losing. Sometimes big.
Maybe it’s just a matter of things that happen: no team is good enough to win every game and no team is bad enough to lose every game. Maybe. Sometimes, however, it does feel like a team becomes overconfident and it faces a team that rightly feels like they have nothing to lose. The results are… well the results are a lot like what we saw in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers were up 2-0 over a Miami Heat team that was missing both Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. The conversation before the game wasn’t whether the Heat could make a comeback, that seemed out of the question, it was whether it was worth even playing out the next two games. This was going to be a sweep.
Without two out of their three most important starters, Miami had exactly one pathway to victory: their leader Jimmy Butler was going to have to have a monster game and the Lakers would have to make some mistakes. Well, both of those happened on Sunday. Butler put in one of the all-time greatest individual games in Finals history, taking advantage of a Lakers team that was committing an absurd number of unforced turnovers. The Lakers looked like they believed in the hype, the Heat out-everything’d them and, as a result, we might just have a series on our hands.
Here’s the problem: it’s hard to count on both of those things happening in a second consecutive game. You can’t expect Butler to have a 40-point triple-double in his second consecutive game and everything we know about LeBron James tells us that he’s not going to let his team (and the Lakers are very much his team) off the hook after Sunday’s shockingly unfocused effort. In other words, Game 4 will not be a trap game, they know exactly how the Heat could beat them.
If the Lakers win, well they go up 3-1 in the series and all the pressure is on Miami to win three straight games. It’s better than being down 3-0, but not by a whole lot. However, if the Heat can even this up… well we have one of the most unexpectedly competitive NBA Finals we’ve seen in a while.
The stakes could not be higher. Have thoughts/comments/jokes/what-have-you’s? Send them in our direction and we’ll use them throughout this blog. You can send emails to [email protected] or Tweet @HunterFelt. It’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat at the Magic Kingdom. The game’s scheduled to start at 9pm EST, but we’ll be here well before that.