After Jimmy Butler made a running bank shot with 1 minute and 14 seconds left to put the Miami Heat up, 109-100, in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, he turned to LeBron James as he walked towards the bench and delivered a message.
"You’re in trouble," Butler said.
Butler, however, said was just throwing James' words back at him.
"First of all, I'm not just out there talking trash because I'm not," Butler said Sunday after the Heat's 115-104 win. "LeBron said that to me at the end of the first. That's what happened. I just said it to him in the fourth quarter."
James, a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP, said that trash-talking typically isn't his style.
That being said, he's willing to engage.
"I've always been a guy who kind of let his game do the talking," James said Monday. "But when guys get to talking, I can do that as well. I've always tried to let my game do the talking. Some guys like to talk their way through the basketball game. I think it helps them out, personally. There's always communication going on on the floor. For me, personally, as long as it doesn't get disrespectful, I'm fine with it. But I've never really started up a trash-talking dialogue. That's just not me. I believe the way I play the game is enough trash-talking in itself."
Butler's words definitely didn't get inside James' head.
This is his 10th NBA Finals appearance and he knows better than to get caught up in ephemeral highs and lows and temperamental momentum shifts.
"Throughout the postseason, I stay even keeled," James said.
Not to mention, Butler deserved to gloat a bit following his stunning 40-point, 13-assist and 11-rebound performance Sunday, making him the third player in NBA Finals history to have a 40-point triple-double, alongside James in 2015 and Jerry West in 1969.
It kept the Heat in the series and breathed new life into their title-winning hopes.
But Butler said it wasn't his best performance ever, reserving that label for when he was a teenager in a recreation league.
"I was really good whenever I was in high school, and I played in this league where I played against all 45-year-old men and I really dominated whenever I was like 17," Butler said Monday. "So this is up there, but back then I was killing it."
The Heat were without Bam Adebayo (neck strain) and Goran Dragic (torn left plantar fascia) their last two games. Their status for Game 4 on Tuesday remains uncertain, but Adebayo said he's "getting better," while Dragic acknowledged that he's still in "a lot of pain" and doesn't have a timetable for his return.
James said regardless of their status, the Lakers need to be on edge.
"It all boils down to no matter who's in the lineup for those guys, they're a great team, James said. "It's just that simple. They're going to put you in positions that may feel uncomfortable, that will be uncomfortable, throughout the course of 48 minutes, and we have to be able to adjust."
The Lakers struggled with that Sunday.
The Heat forced them to commit 20 turnovers. And Anthony Davis got into early foul trouble, which he acknowledged greatly affected his aggressiveness.
"It sucks just because you know if you play well and had done your job, then you possibly could have won the game," said Davis, who had 15 points and five rebounds in Game 3 after averaging 33 points and 11.5 rebounds in the first two games of the series. "It always sucks when you lose, and especially when you don't play well. You know, you look at tape and you try to figure out ways to be better to get prepared for next game."
That's something the Lakers have excelled at.
After games, James often stays up until 4 or 4:30 in the morning watching film to see how they can improve.
They've been quick to make adjustments, only losing one game in each of their last three series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets by quickly shaking off disappointments with commanding performances.
James said he plans on that happening again in Game 4.
"Look forward to the opportunity tomorrow night," he said.