Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler has his Allen Iverson moment

The Miami Heat needed Jimmy Butler in Game 3 of the NBA Finals to have a chance at winning, and he gave them the signature moment of his career.

It is hard to pick out one moment from Jimmy Butler‘s historic Game 3 of the NBA Finals that brought the Miami Heat back into the series because everything about it was just the most fun and exciting thing you could hope to witness on a basketball court.

About the only drawback of his 40-point triple-double performance was that there were no fans in attendance to witness it. Instead, the arena was filled with large and lagging faces on the big screen, watching from whatever outpost they were holed up in during these troubling times. Most of them seemed to be Los Angeles Lakers fans too, but isn’t that always the way?

To watch Butler’s performance back, and you really should in some capacity as it is as breathtaking the second time around, one thing becomes abundantly clear. As a result of the situation Butler and the Heat found themselves in, the parallels to Allen Iverson‘s iconic Game 1 of the 2001 finals are there for all to see. It only adds to the growing legend of Jimmy Butler even more.

Taking the obvious out of the way first, and Butler did to this current Lakers dynamic duo, what Iverson did to another in the form of the late Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal 19 years ago. The opponent is not only the same, the most famous team in the league and one of the most recognizable brands on the planet, but the position Butler found himself in with his own teammates had similarities too.

Make no mistake, this current Miami Heat roster is miles better than anything that the Philadelphia 76ers put around Iverson the year they made the finals. With the exception of adding former Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutumbo during that year to bolster their defense, Iverson had precious little to work with. Seriously, take a look for yourself.

Jimmy Butler was the best player on the floor for the Miami Heat in Game 3

But for Game 3, Butler was without the second-best player on the team, Bam Adebayo. A guy who could have won Most Improved Player of the Year, and who was an All-Star for the first time. He is the modern version of Mutumbo for the Heat. Smaller in stature and blocking fewer shots (although he is no slouch in that area), and capable of switching onto smaller players, while hanging with bigger guys too.

Goran Dragic was also missing, the wily point guard veteran the perfect answer to Rajon Rondo of the Lakers, who is having his now customary playoff run and has been the third-best player for the Lakers in this series. Yes, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were out there helping Butler, but both failed to get it going for large portions of the game.

Herro is only a rookie, while Robinson has played less than 90 regular season games total for the Miami Heat in the two years he has been here. At 25, he is most certainly a late bloomer. All of which is to say, Butler needed to do something special to pull the Heat back into the series, and he did exactly that.

But whereas Iverson used to attack the basket with reckless abandon and no apparent regard for his own wellbeing, Butler was, ironically, far more meticulous in his approach. We say ironically only because he is a very physical player, somebody who has no problem mixing it inside the paint, as evidenced by Rondo shaking him up with a hard foul late in this contest.

Yet here he was in this game, collecting 40 points while torching whatever defender was sent his way. Butler did this mostly by getting into, of all places, the midrange. He scored all of his points without ever taking a shot from deep, unheard of in today’s league and another reason this is a throwback performance to that of Iverson and an era that feels further away with each passing game.

All told Butler went 14-of-20 from the field and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line. His passing was so often right on the money, leading to easy buckets for teammates such as Kelly Olynyk, who ordinarily wouldn’t have been called upon to play 31 minutes. Butler’s rebounding was ferocious as well, putting him in elite company and leading him to tell ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after the game:

We rebounded. That’s gonna be the key going forward. We gotta keep those guys off the board and limit their second chance points. We got back pretty well. It also helps to make shots, don’t ever get me wrong.

In summary, then, doing everything on the court to keep this Lakers team at bay. Which is exactly what Iverson attempted back in 2001. To cap off the similarities, Butler also had that one moment that will be played over and over and which flooded Twitter mere seconds after it took place on the court on Sunday night.

Iverson’s iconic step over Tyronn Lue in that Game 1 win is one of the most iconic pictures and individual moments in league history. Butler’s “He’s in trouble” remark to LeBron James wasn’t quite on the same level, but for a generation that feeds off of that kind of energy and soundbite, it was the perfect moment for the era of social media, where fans watch games while scrolling.

We are yet to see the final parallel, but you get the sense it is coming. Butler seems unlikely to be able to lead the Miami Heat all the way back to a championship, even if Adebayo can get back on the court. Iverson lost four straight and never made the finals again, but his moment and performance were cemented in folklore. No matter what, Jimmy Butler’s will be too.