With the Miami Heat‘s back against the wall in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals, many wondered who would step up for the Heat to tie their series against the Boston Celtics at three games apiece. Jimmy Butler answered the call.
Butler arguably put up the best playoff performance of his career on May 27, 2022. In 46 minutes of action, Butler scored 47 points, corraled nine rebounds, dished out eight assists, and had four steals. Butler’s performance paved the way in keeping Miami’s season alive as they won 111-103 to force a Game 7 in Miami.
Because Butler dominated the Celtics as much as he did, and given that Miami came into Game 6 down 3-2 going to Boston, many compared Butler’s performance to LeBron James‘ in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics to the Heat because of both LeBron’s performance then and the circumstances leading up to it.
On June 10, 2012, James then led the Heat to a Game 7 victory over the Celtics 101-88 to book a trip to the NBA Finals. For the Celtics to avoid the same fate on May 29, they will have to do their best to stop Butler from having another performance like that in their upcoming Game 7 against the Heat.
Where Butler’s Game 6 Performance Ranks All-Time For Miami
Butler’s performance in Game 6 of the conference finals scoring-wise ranks among the highest the Miami Heat have seen as a franchise since being added as an expansion team to the league in 1988.
According to StatMuse, Butler’s 47 points was the second-highest scoring performance in the playoffs by a Heat player in franchise history, trailing only LeBron James. The most points LeBron James scored while playing for Miami did not come against the Celtics, but against the Brooklyn Nets. On May 12, 2014, James scored 49 points to help the Heat beat the Nets 102-96 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to take a 3-1 lead in the series which they ultimately won 4-1.
Butler’s performance scoring-wise in Game 6 also toppled every playoff performance Dwyane Wade ever put up in the 14.5 seasons he played with the Heat. The most Wade ever scored in a playoff game was 46, which was against the Celtics, but it was on April 25, 2010, when he scored 46 points that helped Miami beat Boston 101-92 in the first round of the 2010 playoffs to avoid a sweep. The Celtics eliminated the Heat the very next game.
The highest individual scoring performances in Miami’s playoff history are mostly from James, Wade, and Butler. That’s impressive on their part since the Heat had Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and Tim Hardaway Jr while they were still playing at an all-star level.
The Difference Between 2012 and 2022
Butler having such a dominant performance in Game 6 in the conference finals against the Celtics would inevitably draw comparisons to LeBron putting up a similarly dominant performance ten years prior.
There are a few differences between those two performances besides that they came from two different players
1. Boston never led in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Early on, they had tied the Heat at various points, but they never took the lead. In Game 6 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics took the lead multiple times, including late in the fourth quarter.
2. Once Miami took a 13-point lead at halftime in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, the closest Boston got it down to was 10. Miami pushed their lead as high as 25 at one point. In Game 6 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals, Miami built the lead as high as 13, but Boston came back strong enough to, as previously stated, take the lead.
When LeBron gave the Celtics his best shot, the Heat blew them out. When Butler gave the Celtics his best shot, it was just enough for Miami to win.
Miami could very well win the series, but it’s likely that they’ll need another performance like that from Butler to make it so.