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Butler, Heat provide another performance worth remembering

With the roster finally getting healthy, the Heat are looking more and more dangerous.

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There are moments in time when you can look back at a certain point and think to yourself, “Well, damn, that was special.”

In the game of basketball, particularly the all-or-nothing goal of winning a championship in the NBA, such instances can often get lost in the grander scheme of things. And that can be a bit of a shame. Just because the ultimate desire isn’t always achieved, that shouldn’t erase the significance of how special pitstops during the journey can be – especially in front of a rowdy audience.

The Miami Heat had one hell of a moment in Boston on Friday night.

To some degree it’s been the season from hell for the Heat. Victor Oladipo and Omer Yurtseven haven’t played a single minute. Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo have missed time. The size discrepancy has forced this professional basketball team to play zone defense as much as collegiate squads do, once igniting the starting point guard to call his squad the “Syracuse Heat.”

There have been times they haven’t played with the same gusto we’ve grown acclimated to – the type of effort required of a team who might be unable to match their best rivals with sheer firepower and talent.

And their opponent? Well, it’s been glorious so far. The Boston Celtics went into Friday’s game with a record of 18-4. Their best player is the leading MVP candidate. His wingman could be the team’s best player on certain nights. Jayson Tatum dropped a 49-piece against the Heat two days ago. Jaylen Brown followed that up with 37 of his own. After all, they’re on trend to have the greatest offense ever.

But this time around, Miami was better. This time around, there would be no heartbreak around the corner. At least for one night.

As frustrating as this Heat team has been in spurts since the season tipped-off in October, they have also had the personality of a unit that refuses to go quietly into the night. Maybe it’s the stubbornness of a squad which came within one shot of the NBA Finals just seven months ago, or maybe it’s that “Heat Culture” everyone loves to talk about – one where competition fuels everything.

Either way, they continue to reinforce the thought that they can still have a say in how this season plays out. They’re 11-12, but they’ve won four of their last five games. The top of the East isn’t so far ahead that there’s no way to catch the teams slotted above. Their record when everyone is healthy is improving. They continue to beat playoff-caliber teams: Golden State, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Atlanta, and now, Boston.

They’ve played a league-high 16 “clutch” games this season, where they’re 8-8. That experience this early will come in very handy in April, May, and, who the hell knows, maybe even June, by some miracle?

After Butler’s first dagger in regulation, Brown hit an absurd bank shot from long range to send the game to overtime, a fitting microcosm to explain how incredulously annoying this Heat season has played out.

But Miami re-grouped itself, survived the disqualification of their starting point guard, and sealed the deal in OT – thanks to another Jimmy special.

Butler returned from an IT band issue in his knee and picked up right where he left off the last time he was in the same arena – his Game 6 masterpiece in the Eastern Conference Finals. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t run a ton of actions for him leading up to the final minutes, but when it was time to seal the deal, he was the best performer on the court.

They put the ball in his hands and he made sure they’d fly to Memphis with arms raised in triumph. Tatum and Brown might be up-and-coming superstars, but Butler can still match them blow-for-blow in old-fashioned duels when needed.

Butler has been every bit and more of what you want out of a superstar since coming to Miami, save for a championship. At this point, he doesn’t need a ring to validate his greatness, not when he continues to embody what that word means every time his team – his city – needs a hero to call upon.

Adebayo continues to elevate himself as a premier two-way superstar in the NBA. In his last 10 games he’s averaged 25 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and nearly a block and a steal on 53.5% FG and 86.5% FT shooting, while maintaining his well-earned reputation of being an incredible swiss army knife on the defensive end.

That jumper in the paint looks more and more lethal as the days pass on.

Herro performed in the kind of fashion many Heat fans have been waiting for. He didn’t need to take control of the offense with his running mates also balling at a high level, but picked the right spots to impose his will in the game. His long-range sniping saved the game in plenty of occasions.

Lowry was stupendous all throughout. He might not ever be efficient or a high volume scorer in a Miami uniform, but he sure as hell still knows how to control a game, when to get the ball to the right person, and come up with key defensive stops. Whenever the Heat trailed, their quarterback consistently made the right play to keep them within striking distance.

And how about Haywood Highsmith’s defense, huh?

That’s not to say this Miami team has elevated past the issues which have hounded them here and there in the first quarter of the regular season, although an upcoming softer schedule should provide them the platform to catapult a few notches higher in what’s shaping to be a tight Eastern Conference arms race.

More importantly, the Heat proved they can still match with the NBA’s best blow-for-blow. And despite what their record might show, they can beat any other team on any given day.

After another Herculean effort, Butler was asked what the goal is now that he’s back. As it’s been with him since day one, his answer was simple: a “championship.”

There remains hurdles for the Heat to get there, despite Jimmy’s willingness to leap over them time and time again.

But until we know the final answer of whether or not his time in a Heat uniform will ever produce a title, nights such as the one they just had in Boston should always be remembered.

The type that would have the most passionate Miami fan screaming, “Fu** Boston!”

Or saying out loud: “Jimmy Butler is HIM!”

Or it could even be something ridiculous, like stating “I am buying a new puppy and naming him Jimmy Buckets.”

These are nights worth remembering.