Jimmy Butler was exceptional as the Miami Heat kicked off the NBA playoffs with an impressive Game 1 victory in the bubble.
The NBA playoffs are why the Miami Heat brought Jimmy Butler to town last summer.
After missing the playoffs for the third time in five seasons, the Heat knew only too well that they were in desperate need of an alpha dog if they were to again be truly recognized as a contender in the Eastern Conference. And in his first appearance for the Heat in the postseason, Butler did not disappoint.
Playing 37 minutes, Butler posted 28 points, four assists, four steals and two blocks, a line only matched by Dwyane Wade in Heat playoff history, as the Heat overcame the Indiana Pacers 113-101. As is his customary self, Butler’s impact was felt at both ends of the floor. In addition to getting to the free throw line on 12 occasions, Butler also contributed four deflections at the defensive end, with his energy seemingly endless.
Following the game, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra of the impact Butler made in the win:
“He’s somebody that in those pressure moments that you throw him the ball and he’s going to make a play that you trust is going to be good for the team….make or miss, he wants the responsibility, and that’s obviously why we sort him out so fervently.”
Terrific throughout the contest, Butler saved his best for crunch time. In the final 7:57 of the game, Butler recorded 10 points, one steal and one block while being a plus-10. Notably, and unexpectedly, Butler drained both of his attempts from 3-point range, an area of his game that has notably slumped since arriving in Miami.
To put this in context, Butler’s last made 3-pointer came on Mar. 2, with Feb. 3 being the last time in which he nailed multiple triples. Having shot an abysmal 24.4 percent from long range over the regular season, unlocking this area of his game would be an absolute boon for the Heat. Considering he’d shot the 3-ball serviceably prior to arriving in South Beach, this isn’t a completely unrealistic goal.
When quizzed about his forays from downtown in the final quarter, Butler noted:
“I take what the game gives me the majority of the time….but in the end, my teammates, my coaches were like don’t lose this game, win it for us.”
Butler’s history of performance in the clutch and in the postseason is why it makes it even more unfathomable that the Philadelphia 76ers decided not to extend their relationship with Butler last summer. While the Sixers had their reasons, the proof thus far is in the pudding, with the Sixers’ underwhelming regular season having extended into the bubble.
Looking ahead, Butler has already dismissed any rivalry this series with the Indiana Pacers’ TJ Warren, insisting that the dramas of the regular season are simply a thing of the past.
Instead, Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat will be looking to extract every ounce of competitive juice that Jimmy Butler possesses as they continue their march throughout the NBA playoffs.