Butler put on an exhibition for the ages on Monday to give Miami a 3-1 lead over Milwaukee.
With 8:11 left in the fourth quarter and the Heat behind the Bucks 98-87, everything seemed to be back in order when Jimmy Butler entered the game again. Milwaukee was about to regain control of a series that had begun to take an odd turn since Giannis Antetokounmpo had returned, despite the fact that Butler had been on a roll all night.
Butler then outscored Milwaukee 22-16 on his own, closing with a Heat playoff franchise record 56 points as Miami shocked the Bucks, 119-114, to take a 3-1 series lead. Butler had just put on one of the most iconic performances most of us have ever seen.
JIMMY BUTLER IS IN #PLAYOFFMODE
56 PTS | 19-28 FG 🔥
HEAT FRANCHISE PLAYOFF RECORD.
T-4TH MOST POINTS IN NBA PLAYOFF HISTORY. pic.twitter.com/dv4iNILXWu
— NBA (@NBA) April 25, 2023
In the context of sports, that phrase is frequently misused, but not here. its game and its series are genuinely amazing. This Miami club appeared to be completely dead against Atlanta in the first play-in game. Nobody who understood basketball gave them any opportunity to compete with the top-seeded Bucks, much less stand a chance of winning in five.
It illustrates how we as a society refuse to accept Butler as the top-tier superstar that he consistently establishes himself to be on the grandest stages. He’s been good, if not exceptional, in our eyes for a while. Although I still recall thinking it was absurd when Pat Riley referred to Butler as a top-10 player at Butler’s first press conference after Miami acquired him in 2019. Top-10 seems to be an undersell if we’re talking about players you’d want on your team for a playoff matchup.
And it wasn’t just me who for so long felt more at ease calling Butler a “two-way star” in a backhanded sense; this compliment is usually saved for people we wish to recognise as stars but not superstars. Butler is not Klay Thompson or Paul George. No offense intended, save your “two-way” conversation for guys like him.
Butler is unquestionably a superstar of the highest caliber. Butler falls into the same category as LeBron James, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, or a healthy Kawhi Leonard when it comes to teams being serious contenders as long as that player is on the court.
I can’t help but wonder why nobody is ever begging for Miami to arm Butler with a second star the way we’re always wanting to acquire, say, Damian Lillard a competitive roster when I think about all these amazing players that we all sit around talking about “he deserves more help.” I’m a huge Lillard supporter, and I’ll cheerfully tell you this right now: If Butler and Lillard were switched, Portland would be a legitimate Western Conference contender.
There are some players that need specific conditions in order to succeed at the greatest level. They don’t include Butler. This Miami team is totally destroyed. There is no Tyler Herro. Inactive is Victor Oladipo. P.J. Tucker was lost, and he was never replaced. Most nights, Kyle Lowry resembles a shadow of the All-Star he once was. A second star is NOT Bam Adebayo. not on this scale. Seven undrafted players are on the Miami Heat’s roster as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks, who were widely considered the favorite to win the NBA championship.
It is incredible that Miami is ahead 3-1 even with Giannis missing a few games. And Butler is to blame for everything, absolutely everything.
It feels disrespectful to Butler’s ineffable qualities to even try to put a number on what makes him so amazing. He is a brick-like defender, yes. an ever-present rival. a strong, traditional scorer with excellent footwork, a never-ending supply of pump fakes, and a talent for drawing fouls. A devastating midrange shooter who, in the most important postseason games and situations, also magically transforms into a 3-point assassin. After Game 4, Erik Spoelstra referred to him as “one of the most intelligent basketball players in this association.”
All of that applies.
However, it’s more than that in some way.
We have seen a lot of it from Butler throughout the years. It’s something you can’t quite put your finger on but you know it when you see it. He simply triumphs. Angles favor him. He pulls in rebounds. He wins big time. He gains control. He triumphs in contests. He wins the series.
This is a fact. He has often shown us him doing this. Even then, if we all genuinely believed in Butler’s doctrine, we wouldn’t have given the Heat little chance in this series despite all he has accomplished in Miami, including reaching two Eastern Conference finals and facing LeBron in the Finals. To a LeBron James squad, we wouldn’t do that. Or a Curry group.
Even now, following that performance, I find it challenging to classify Butler in that category. But dammit if he doesn’t keep making me wonder myself, “Why not?” Giannis and Durant are both easily included in that category, in my opinion. Butler will never reach those players’ statistical levels, but are you positive that these bigger names will play better in a single playoff game or series?
I guess there is room for debate on the subjectivity of greatness. But what is undeniably true is that Butler, along with Charles Barkley, is now one of just two players in history to score at least 55 points on at least 80% true shooting in a playoff game. In a playoff game, only three players have ever scored more goals than Butler’s 56.
He is scoring 36.5 points on 63% of his shots in this series, including 53% from three. This performance is also not an anomaly. This is Playoff Jimmy’s rule. He works in this manner. Over and over.
After all of this, the series is still ongoing. The Bucks have more than enough talent to win three games in a row. But given the current state of affairs, a Miami team that practically everyone had written off is one victory away from potentially facing the 3-1 Knicks for a berth in the Eastern Conference finals, where they might play Boston, another team Butler causes problems for.
It is absurd to even consider the Heat reaching the Finals this year, but it is now possible. Sure, it’s doubtful. But there is a possibility. Because when you have Jimmy Butler, you have a chance against anyone, anytime, anywhere, a truth that we’ve all fought for far too long to deny.