Heat star forward Jimmy Butler’s stellar performances propelled Miami to a remarkable 2-0 lead in the 2023 Eastern Conference finals. Once again, the Heat emerged victorious against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, clinching a 111-105 win and the chance to advance closer to their first NBA Finals since 2020.
Previously on Wednesday night, Butler also led the Heat to a 123-116 comeback victory against the Celtics. Miami won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden with Butler’s 35-point game. Game 1 also marked Butler’s fifth postseason game where he scored 30 or more points.
In Game 2, Butler made crucial back-to-back shots with 27 points to his name. In addition, he grabbed eight rebounds, dished out six assists, and had an emotional fire after a verbal altercation with Boston’s small forward Grant Williams.
Following the incident, Butler went on a scoring spree, putting up nine crucial points during a decisive 23-9 run. This impressive performance not only erased a nine-point deficit but also propelled the Heat to a 105-100 lead.
Miami’s small forward Caleb Martin, who contributed 25 points off the bench, expressed his confidence in the impact of Butler’s intensity on both of these games.
“I knew that was going to be good for us,” Martin said. “We’ll take mad Jimmy at any time. You could kind of see it in his eyes he was ready to go after that.”
Miami center Bam Adebayo also played a significant role in the match, recording 22 points, 17 rebounds, and nine assists for the team. With a chance to sweep the series, the Heat will now return home, aiming to become only the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the NBA Finals.
Butler said he performs exceptionally due to the team’s support and trust.
“I’m playing at an incredible level because they are allowing me to do so,” Butler said. “They are not putting a limit on my game. They are trusting me with the ball, on the defensive end. I think that’s what any basketball player wants.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra commended Butler’s selfless approach.
“He’s not playing for numbers. He’s trying to help the offense get the best possible high-percentage shot,” Spoelstra said. “Down the stretch, Jimmy was able to just do everything we needed as a scorer or as a facilitator. He’s willing to do both.”
Gabe Vincent also talked about the Heat’s confidence when Butler performs at such a high level. He acknowledged the six-time All-Star’s unique talents, highlighting his irreplaceable presence.
“When Jimmy’s playing like that, we feel like we can play with anybody, beat anybody,” Vincent told ESPN. “We got a couple guys in this locker room like that, but Jimmy’s one of a kind.”
Point guard Kyle Lowry also chimed in, describing the enjoyable experience of watching Butler’s performance.
“It’s fun. He’s one of the best players in the world for a reason. It’s just a joy to watch it. For a guy that wants it so bad and works so hard at his craft, it’s important to enjoy his success,” Lowry said.
According to Lowry, Butler gives a sense of confidence in the team, urging his teammates to embrace success and exhibit aggression as well as assertiveness. Lowry also said Butler’s exceptional quality lies in his selflessness, as he prioritizes collective success rather than focusing solely on himself.
Game 3 is scheduled for this Sunday, May 21, 8:30 p.m. ET at Kaseya Center, Miami.
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