ORLANDO (Reuters) – Down 2-0 and expecting to be without two key starters once again in Game 3 on Sunday (Oct 4), the Miami Heat remain defiant as they look to pull one game back against the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association Finals in Orlando, Florida.
“We don’t give a s*** what everybody else thinks,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in the aftermath of the 124-114 Game 2 loss on Friday.
“What will it take? Whatever is necessary. Simple as that. If you want something badly enough, you’ll figure it out. Our group is stubborn and persistent, and we just need to figure out how to overcome this opponent.”
Without Bam Adebayo (neck) and Goran Dragic (foot) on Friday, Miami showed grit in avoiding being blown out the way Game 1 unfolded, when the Heat trailed by as many as 32 points.
Jimmy Butler led the way with 25 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds in playing 45 minutes, and Kelly Olynyk was a surprise off the bench with 24 points and nine rebounds.
The Heat will need that again and more on Sunday as Adebayo and Dragic – two of the team’s top-three scorers these play-offs – are both listed as doubtful.
“We’re never giving up,” said Butler. “We’re going to fight, and we’re going to ride with this thing till the wheels fall off. It’s not over. We’re just down 0-2; we got to do something special.”
“They are warriors and are continuing to try to lobby, but they just need rest, recovery, and treatment and that’s the only course of action right now,” Spoelstra said.
While Butler revealed Dragic and Adebayo were lobbying to return “every second”, he issued a word of caution over rushing them back too soon.
“Yeah, we need those guys, we want those guys out there with us. But it’s just bigger than basketball,” the forward said.
“We want them to have a long career and whenever they do get back in this series we want them to be ready to go.”
Miami’s star rookie Tyler Herro, like Butler and Spoelstra, remained confident that the Heat can respond, regardless of who is on the floor.
“We have two options: We can fold and we can fight, like the Miami Heat do,” he said. “We know what kind of team we are. We know what we’re capable of, and next game, we’re going to have to fight and make some plays.”
For the Lakers, the key is doing more of the same.
Los Angeles have been dominant the first two games, outscoring and out-rebounding Miami.
The Western Conference champions have been potent both in the paint and from long range, and they show little sign of slowing down with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way.
“Those guys are playing at an extremely high level, and hopefully, we can get two more wins,” said coach Frank Vogel.
Davis is averaging 33 points and 11.5 rebounds through the first two games, and James is just behind at 29 and 11.
The dynamic duo has elicited comparisons to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who combined to win three consecutive championships for the Lakers from 2000-02.
“To be in the conversation with those two guys, myself and AD, is just very humbling, because I grew up watching those guys,” James said.
“It’s very humbling that we can be even mentioned with those greats.”
Prior to the Finals, the Heat had not lost two consecutive games all post-season.
Miami entered the series 12-3 after powering through the Eastern Conference and the last time a team came back from 0-2 to win the Finals was in 2016, when James’ Cleveland Cavaliers accomplished the feat against the Golden State Warriors.
As such, Los Angeles will not rule out Miami just yet.
“Until we win four games, we haven’t accomplished our goal,” Lakers guard Alex Caruso said. “It’s been over a year together, and we’ve talked about the same goal from day one. We’re still here chasing that same goal. Until we get four wins, we’re staying hungry.”