When the Miami Heat made the NBA Finals in 2020, a different player emerged as the top scorer in the first three playoff rounds. Goran Dragic led the Heat in their first-round series over the Indiana Pacers, Jimmy Butler dominated against the Milwaukee Bucks and Bam Adebayo took control over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This playoff run, it’s been all Butler.
I did not see this coming man— HEAT NATION (@Zachppp) May 20, 2022
Jimmy been carrying this team all playoffs long pic.twitter.com/FRapWJdHcx
Dragic played his best basketball in the Bubble. Kyle Lowry has been hurt for much of this year’s playoffs. In the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals, Butler was actually the Heat’s fourth-leading scorer — behind Adebayo, Dragic and Tyler Herro. In Game 2 of that series — a game Miami won — Butler scored just 14 points and didn’t impose his will until the fourth quarter. Many implored him to be more aggressive.
In this playoff run against the Philadelphia 76ers and Celtics, the Heat can’t buy Butler a three-minute rest in the second quarter without crumbling.
Butler scored 45 points in the Heat’s first-round Game 2 win over the Atlanta Hawks a month ago. Heat fans rightfully celebrated an amazing performance from the six-time All-Star. But Adebayo struggled with foul trouble in that game and only scored nine points. Kyle Lowry, who would suffer his hamstring injury in Game 3 of the series, shot just 2-of-8 from the field.
It shouldn’t take a 45-point performance from Butler to defeat the Hawks, a team that finished the regular season with the ninth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
In this playoff run, Adebayo has only made his mark offensively when DeAndre Jordan started at center for the Sixers. (As it should go without saying, his defense has been exemplary. But a max player, which Adebayo now is, does it on both ends of the floor.) Herro is hitting just 25 percent of his 3-point looks this postseason, including 21 percent on pull-up 3s.
Now, the Heat have gotten just enough from other players to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami, of course, closed out the series against Atlanta with Butler taking the night off. Victor Oladipo led the Heat in scoring that night, but he’s looked indecisive with the ball in his hands against the Celtics. Max Strus scored 19 points in Game 5 and 20 in the Game 6 clincher over the Philadelphia 76ers. Duncan Robinson made eight 3s in the opening playoff game.
The Celtics are significantly better than the Hawks and the Sixers, though. Their starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams III makes it tough to hunt for mis-matches. Miami needs Adebayo and Herro to play to their regular season averages to advance past Boston.