How Jimmy Butler Silenced the Haters (And TJ Warren)
The NBA bubble was a complete success, with no positive COVID-19 tests and a new breakout performance every night. The first player to grab everybody’s attention was TJ Warren. The Pacers starting forward went nuts against the 76ers in the team’s first game.
Warren shot 20-29 (9-12 3PT), en route to a career-high 53 points. During the first part of the season, Jimmy Butler had some words for Warren after the two got into a spat. Butler said of Warren:
“He’s soft, he’s not in my (bleeping) league. He’s (bleeping) trash.”
It’s pretty clear Butler believed himself superior.
Fast forward to the NBA playoffs, where Jimmy’s Heat were playing Warren’s Pacers. The Heat would sweep Indiana in four games, ending things quickly. Butler averaged just 19-5-4 for the series, but his impact was felt on the defensive end. Warren posted averages of 20-6-3.
Given Warren’s fantastic regular season, those numbers are very underwhelming. Butler, without actually saying it, let TJ know who the boss was. Indiana didn’t win a single playoff game. This was just the beginning for Butler.
Taking Down the Bucks
The Heat weren’t expected to get past the second-round of the playoffs. They had to face 2X reigning MVP and 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo. His Bucks were coming in off a trip to the conference finals. It became apparent in the series opener that Jimmy Butler wasn’t playing around.
He took over down the stretch of game 1, finishing with 40 points on 13-20 shooting. And after being relatively quiet for much of game 2, he made sure to get the last laugh. He had just 13 points and six assists, but made two free throws with no time on the clock after drawing a foul, to clinch another win. Miami’s now up 2-0 on the prospective conference champs.
They won pretty handily in game 3, with Jimmy putting up an impressive 30-7-6 line. And early in game 4, a sweep being very possible, Giannis got hurt. Khris Middleton carried the Bucks to a win to avoid the sweep, but they couldn’t get it done in game 5.
Jimmy Butler took just 10 shots, but finished with a solid 17-10-6 line. He let the Bucks know that he was a legitimate lockdown defender. His impact went way beyond the box score.
On to the Celtics
This was never going to be a cakewalk for Jimmy and the Heat. The Celtics took the Raptors down in a heated seven-game series coming in to the round. We knew how much they were capable of.
Jimmy didn’t have any notably impressive performances in this series, but he played fantastic defense on the Celtics wing players. Jimmy’s running mates deserve a lot credit. Tyler Herro had some spectacular games, while Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo scored the ball against anybody that wanted to defend them.
Butler did finish with 22 points and eight assists in the clinching game 6, a +18-net rating in 39 minutes.
Letting the Lakers Know
Obviously, the Heat didn’t win the NBA title this year. That distinction goes to the Lakers. But Jimmy Butler basically put the negative words out there about him, and made them all false. “Jimmy can’t lead. He’s a bad teammate. He’s a problem.” Yeah, okay.
After struggling through game 1, where he also suffered a knee injury, Butler posted 25-8-13 in a tough game 2 loss. They didn’t have Bam Adebayo or Goran Dragic, but Butler was playing great ball all night.
It was what he did in game 3 that was historic. 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in 45 minutes of action. Butler scored 40 points without making a three, an NBA Finals anomaly. He was doing just as much work on the defensive end of the floor. He went toe-to-toe with the great LeBron James.
In was a bit of an “off-game” Butler put up 22-10-9 in 43 minutes on the floor in game 4. The team lost narrowly, but stayed in it until the end. He did this with Anthony Davis covering him.
And in game 5, he posted the first-ever 35-10-10 and five-steal performance in Finals history. In 47 minutes of action, no less. He was making every shot he took and constantly finding the open man. A team that was supposed to get swept, winning two games while being short-handed, led by Jimmy G. Buckets. It’s astonishing he didn’t need a ventilator to breathe after this.
The series would end in blowout fashion in game 6, but the mission was accomplished. A trip to the NBA Finals, scaring the eventual champs, and proving the success of Heat Culture.
Remembering Jimmy’s Performances
Jimmy Butler was not a superstar every night. But he filled the role of on-floor leader for the Heat, and turned in some magical stat lines. There were several breakout stars and unparalleled performances throughout the bubble. Jimmy Butler’s were some of the best.
So, before any more writers try and say he was a problem in Minnesota or Philly, think again. Also, happy two-year anniversary to Butler leading the TWolves 3rd-stringers to victory in a scrimmage against the other starters. Good times. Good times.