Butler outshined an angry LeBron James as the Heat got back into the Finals series, while the Seattle Storm edged towards another WNBA title.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man… and Jimmy Butler has delivered when the Miami Heat needed him most.
Despite playing in a short-handed team, the Texas-born basketball star's 40-point haul helped Miami to a 115-104 win over the LA Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Sunday evening.
“I tell Coach all the time, I’m ready for this,’” Butler told reporters afterwards. “The biggest stage, whatever you ask me to do, I can do.”
The Lakers now take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 of the best-of-seven game series.
Despite being outclassed and losing Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo to injury in the first two games, the Heat were ruthless in Florida.
The home team stormed into a 22-9 lead, with a 14-point advantage midway through the third quarter.
They capitalised on the Laker’s 20 turnovers, who never managed to find any rhythm thanks to Anthony Davis’s early foul and a litter of other errors.
Butler led the offence with courage to equal his postseason career high for scoring with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists.
Kelly Olynyk was also in red-hot form, hitting three three-pointers to score 17 off the bench in a match that was dominated by defence on both sides of the ball.
It was a night to forget for Lakers talisman LeBron James, who finished with 25 points and stormed off the court with 10 seconds left on the clock at the end.
"We had some careless turnovers," James, who had a very uncharacteristic eight turnovers, said afterwards.
"It starts with me, like I said, and I take full responsibility for that. I'll be a lot better on Tuesday with that understanding that they are very good with their hands. They are very good with the stripping." - LeBron James to reporters after Game 2
With Dragic and Adebayo set to return later in the series, the 2020 NBA Finals have well and truly been reignited.
Over at the IMG Academy in Florida, a rampant Seattle Storm beat the Las Vegas Aces 104-91 to put one hand on another WNBA Championship trophy.
“This is our moment to really finish the series and take home the championship,” Stewart told the media afterwards.
They now take a 2-0 lead into Game 3 of the best-of-five series.
Seattle are no stranger to the WNBA Finals having won in 2004, 2010 and 2018, and their motivation to keep on winning clearly hasn’t wavered.
Two days after setting a Finals record of 16 assists, 39-year-old Sue Bird added another 10 to go along with her 16 points.
Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark both contributed 21 points to go along with Stewart and Bird’s efforts, while Jordin Canada added 10 points from the bench.
Las Vegas will feel disappointed that they didn’t make more of their 65-64 lead near the end of the third quarter.
But a 22-point blitz in six minutes underlined the superiority of their opponents, who eased to victory from there.
Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson enjoyed a fine performance with 20 points.
Seattle will be hoping to secure the championship in Game 3, which takes place at the same venue on 6 October.