The Miami Heat’s Game 2 debacle to the Milwaukee Bucks last night was reminiscent of the 2014 NBA Finals, when the San Antonio Spurs blew out Miami three straight times to win the championship. But some looked at Jimmy Butler’s disposition and stat line — 10 points on 10 field goal attempts and a -34 in his minutes — and saw something worrisome.
Has Butler, who carried the Heat in last year’s Finals and for much of this past regular season, checked out? Back in 2018, Dan LeBatard said the Heat felt like LeBron James “checked out” of the 2014 NBA Finals.
Before the playoffs, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that there had been some “very, very testy moments” between Butler and the Heat’s coaching staff. After an April win over the San Antonio Spurs, Butler admitted that he and Erik Spoelstra got into a “little predicament” but followed that up with, “...we both want to win; we both have the same agenda.”
"I'm told there has been very, very testy moments behind the scenes between Jimmy and that coaching staff."— Stadium (@Stadium) May 21, 2021
Our Insider @ShamsCharania and former NBA champion @imanshumpert discuss the back and forth between Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. pic.twitter.com/JURpb0vtbO
Early this season, Butler criticized his teammates for “not playing hard.” Last month, he implored Bam Adebayo to “attack the rim” and “play bully ball.” (Adebayo’s underwhelming performance is a discussion for another day.) Has Butler decided — as some think LeBron did in 2014 — that he just doesn’t have enough help?
In a postgame interview last night, Butler offered a measured assessment — that sometimes he and Adebayo get lost in trying to set up teammates and that he needs to “impose our will” more. It’s also important to note that Butler missed the final two games of the regular season with back tightness, so that could also be an issue.
Jimmy Butler: I think sometimes Bam and I get a little lost in getting everyone involved. It's not a bad thing. I think that's what has made us really good players in this league but sometimes we gotta go, myself especially...maybe we gotta impose our will a little more. pic.twitter.com/btUxgmIARy— Brendan Tobin (@Brendan_Tobin) May 25, 2021
The Heat are on the ropes. No NBA team has ever come back from an 3-0 series deficit. Miami needs the Butler who carried Miami without Goran Dragic and Adebayo against the Los Angeles Lakers last October.