clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Miami’s bench has been great. Jimmy Butler still needs to deliver in the playoffs.

Butler has struggled in the Heat’s last two losses.

Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Without a doubt, the Miami Heat’s depth has been their biggest story. Before the season, Zach Lowe said Miami’s depth worried him. But now, Tyler Herro is a runaway favorite for Sixth Man of the Year. Caleb Martin may be the best player on a two-way contract ever. Max Strus and Gabe Vincent have taken leaps from middling seasons last year.

And yet, the Heat still need Jimmy Butler to deliver to give themselves the best chance to make it to the Finals for the second time in three seasons.

It’s easy to blame Butler for Miami’s loss last night to the Atlanta Hawks. The four-time All-NBA player missed a bunny at the rim off a lob pass from Bam Adebayo to give the Heat a lead with 20 seconds left and later (inexplicably) attempted a corner 3 that also missed. He shot 5-of-14 from the field and attempted just two free throws on the night.

A better question would ask why the Heat were down 16 to the Hawks in the first place, needing a furious rally that included four Duncan Robinson 3s in the fourth quarter.

No one should overreact to this loss. It’s hard to beat a team three times in nine days. The Heat didn’t have Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro, and P.J. Tucker didn’t play after the first quarter. Miami is still just a half-game out of first place in the East.

But the Heat’s previous loss came when Butler shot just 1-for-11 Jan. 15 against the Philadelphia 76ers. (In fairness to Butler, Miami also struggled from beyond the arc.) This team is at its best when Butler and Adebayo score inside the paint and at the foul line, and the shooters — Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, Max Strus, etc. — are hitting their shots.

It’s been fun to see Caleb Martin have a career night to notch a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks or Gabe Vincent hit a clutch 3 over the Sixers. But in the playoffs, Butler will need to play like the max player he is.