As of this writing, we’re just over 24 hours away from Game 1 of the Miami Heat‘s Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics. For oddsmakers, pundits and hoops fans alike, the team’s path to Round 3 is perhaps the unlikeliest journey taken in the NBA this season.
If you ask Heat star Jimmy Butler, however, he might tell you that his team’s return engagement with the Celtics was fated by the stars. Or, more accurately, by himself.
In the immediate aftermath of Miami’s postseason dismissal after a hotly-contested Game 7 during the 2022 conference finals, Butler boldly declared that the ballers of Biscayne would be back again in 2023, and that the end result would be different as well. It’s a premonition that’s shockingly close to being proved true despite the club’s No. 8 seed, its play-in status and a pair of brutal injuries.
While speaking to reporters during the Heat’s final practice leading up to the redux, Butler touted his previous prediction and served up another doozy about the title chase at large. Specifically, that Miami is destined to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy this time around.
Jimmy Butler Says That 2023 Is the Heat’s Year (to Win It All?)
Upon being reminded of his old promise, Butler declared: “If I did say it I probably meant it.”
The Heat’s regular season may not have played out as anyone expected following the team’s 2021-22 run — and losing Tyler Herro in Round 1 still feels like a killer — but Butler clearly remains in title-or-bust mode. And he’s confident that the Celtics won’t be making a liar out of him.
“Just like every year I say we’re going to win a championship, I mean it. This year is our year. We’re going to go into this Game 1 and do what we’re supposed to do and be the first one to four [wins]. We’re very capable of it. We have enough … I like our chances as does everyone else in this organization.”
At the absolute least, it’s probably safe to assume that Butler will be holding his end up in the attempt.
So far this postseason, the six-time All-Star has averaged 31.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals over 10 appearances while hitting pay dirt on 52.7% of his field-goal attempts and 36.1% of his attempts from three-point range.
Of the four teams still remaining, FanDuel has the Heat as the longshot as a +1500 bet to win the championship.
Erik Spoelstra Taken Back by Doc Rivers Firing
As the Heat made their final preparations for the best-of-seven bout with the Cs on Tuesday, word of the rival Philadelphia 76ers‘ decision to part ways with head coach Doc Rivers began to spread around the team’s practice.
For his part, Spoelstra was dumbstruck by the development, and by other recent firings that have occurred around the league.
“It’s disturbing,” Spoelstra said via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Doc’s a Hall of Famer. … You get past the first round, there’s going to be some really good teams. Great players, great organizations, great coaching staffs that are going to lose. It’s part of the nature of this beast. There’s only so many teams that can advance.
“It’s just a really hard thing to do. It’s been a tough couple weeks, hearing the news of some really surprising firings.”