Fierce, Fearless, and Focused: Miami Heat’s Winning Formula with Jimmy Butler

Butler has been the Miami Heat’s standout performer during the postseason. Actually, he has been their motivator for the past four years, but even if “Playoff Jimmy” tries to deny it, everyone knows he is unique.

The Boston Celtics were defeated by the team in Game 3 by a score of 128-102, but it is now obvious that this squad is much more than just its star.

Miami is now up 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. After three quarters of Sunday’s game, they were up 30 points. Butler ended with only 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting despite not having to play a single minute in the fourth quarter.

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The Heat easily won the game despite his lowest game score (15.1; “a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game”) of the playoffs thanks to a 19-of-35 three-point shooting performance and a relentless team defense that had Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown off the court by the time the fourth quarter had begun.

In both the regular season and postseason, Boston’s top two scorers combined for 26 points on 35 attempts. They made only 1 of 14 three-point attempts, bringing their series total from beyond the arc to a pitiful 7 of 40 (17.5%).

The overall defensive vigor in the series has kept Boston to 107.7 points per game. It scored 115.5 in the first two rounds of the playoffs and 117.9 in the regular season.

On the opposite side of the court, though, Butler’s teammates have excelled the most.

Thanks to a surge of three-pointers from undrafted players Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, and Duncan Robinson, Game 3 was effectively gone by halftime.

Seven of Miami’s nine triples in the first half were made by those three together. They were 15 of 23 overall from deep. Vincent scored 29 points on 11 of 14 shots by himself.

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Miami has launched a postseason-long deep barrage that features players from around the lineup. And that helps Butler and Bam Adebayo feel more relaxed on the inside.

Adebayo has scored most of his points in the paint, and Butler has also scored a lot (though his mid-range shooting is undoubtedly dangerous, too). The willingness and aptitude each possesses to fire the ball out to shooters from those driving lanes is what really gives those two a dynamic quality. Butler averages 5.6 assists per game. Adebayo is providing 3.9.

Miami is three victories into the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to the balanced output of the roster’s non-Butler members. At least a third of a victory share has been contributed by nine players.

Similar preparation, tenacity, and teamwork were displayed by another Western Conference force in the 2000s and 2010s when a superstar was at the heart of everything.

It took Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks 13 seasons to discover the ideal combination to accentuate the scoring prowess of their star.

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Butler definitely moved on from one team after a short time (you can’t really blame him because his initial move was a trade). Instead, he went looking for the ideal mixture on his own. His fourth team is the Heat, and he could have found it there.

Butler needs one more victory to qualify for the Finals for the second time in four years. And for the second time, it seems as though the West may provide Trump a possible behemoth to take down.

But this time, his supporting cast appears to be more willing to pitch in.

This plan will likely be put to the test by Jamal Murray, Nikola Joki, and the Nuggets after one more victory over the East.

Denver will benefit from playing at home. Most likely, it will be the betting favorite. The prediction model at FiveThirtyEight also rates it as a rather strong favorite.

But all Butler and his flawlessly constructed supporting cast have accomplished is consistently defy expectations. Five more victories would not be all that remarkable at this point.

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