The Miami Heat saw past and present align themselves at FTX Arena on Sunday. Jimmy Butler came back from his performance against the Atlanta Hawks that created a great deal of criticism with a tremendous performance as he helped his team come away with a 113-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The victory put this improbable Heat team atop the Eastern Conference with a 30-17 record and are now the third-best home team in the league behind the Warriors and Suns.
From a personal standpoint, this game had a bit of context as with his Butler’s triple-double that much sweeter as he ended up breaking a record that was previously held by LeBron James.
At the 6:37 mark of the fourth quarter against Lakers on Sunday night, Jimmy Butler pulled down his 10th rebound for the game, bringing up his third triple-double of the season and 10th as a member of the Miami Heat.
The All-Star forward ended up with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds on the night. He also set the tone early with his unselfishness, notching seven assists in the first quarter alone; ten by the end of the first half.
What is even more impressive and a testament to the heat overall collective unselfishness is that in the previous 25 years only three players reached 10 assists by halftime: Jason Williams, Gary Payton and Tim Hardaway.
According to Tim Reynolds, the Heat were able to do it three times this season alone (Lowry twice and Butler).
Buckets Breaks LeBron’s Record
This put him as the all-time leader in Heat history in that category, surpassing the record previously established by the now-Lakers star.
What makes this record even more impressive is that Butler did it in a much shorter time span (139 games) that James did (294 games).
After stating that he was happy that the team was able to get the win and talked about they handled the team in the final stretch.
“Like I said when I was walking off the floor, it’s a blessing anytime you get in the same sentence with Hall of Famers like D-Wade and LeBron and what they’ve done for this organization and this city it says a lot,” Butler emphasized. “But it says even more about my teammates, because they are looking out for me just as anyone. A lot of that stuff really goes to them because they are looking out for me.”
LeBron Reacts To Jimmy’s Record
Former Heat star came out after the game and once again hosted a wide spectrum of question. One of them happened to be Butler’s record-breaking performance. LeBron only had words of praise for him.
“Every time you play in this game throughout your career, there are certain guys that stick out. That you know when you step on the floor they’ll give maximum effort every play. And that’s for both sides,” said LeBron to Ethan Skolnick.
James, who led all scorers with 30 points, also mentioned that he is quite familiar this these types of performances against Butler dating to his days with the Heat and praised him for it.
“You’ll win some, you’ll lose some but the respect after the game is always going to be there. It was fun and exciting to be in that matchup and that has been like that throughout Jimmy’s whole career when I’ve matched up with him. Everytime we’ve matched up, no matter what uniform he’s had on or I had on we’ve battled it out. So, I have nothing but respect for a guy that brings it every single night. That brings his hard hat, punches his clock and leaves it out on the floor.”
Spoelstra: ‘He’s a Great Luxury For Us’
Coach Spoelstra talked extensively about his star and what he means to the team and the mark that he is leaving in the organization.
“Jimmy is able to help us in so many different ways,” said Erik Spoelstra in the post game press conference. “He’s really developed into a great playmaker for us. He can set up other players with easy baskets in a myriad of ways.”
The Heat coach also talked about how Butler did a great job setting his teammates up for high-percentage shots even though he was filling in for Kyle Lowry, who was missing his fourth consecutive game.
“Having him is a great luxury for us,” Spo finalized.
Other Heroes Had To Emerge As Another Big Lead Evaporated
Miami had a lead as big as 26 points in the game; the biggest deficit the Lakers had this season in the first half. They went into the fourth quarter with a 19-point advantage, yet Miami had to depend on some poor execution in the final stretch from the Lakers to be able to come away with the victory.
The Heat were shorthanded with Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry being inactive, so it did lead to other players having to step up once again to hold on to a game that, at moments, seemed to be slipping away.
Butler’s play did diminish in the final six minutes of the game, yet the emergence of some key role players was the one factor that helped them come away with a big win at home. Although defense set the tone
“They played harder than us,” said Lakers guard Russell Westbrook after the game. “We just didn’t play hard enough. When we decided to play hard, you see a difference. It doesn’t matter in this league what you run, when a team plays harder you will know.”
One of those that offered his share of intense work Duncan Robinson once again contributed with his long-range shooting as he led the team in scoring with 25 points, nine of them in the fourth quarter.
Yet the hero of the game in the final minutes ended up being Gabe Vincent with his defensive work and getting the key bucket to finally end the impending Laker rally.
”It’s refreshing to know that guys are going to take their shot in the first, second, third, fourth overtime, that’s what we want.” Butler responded when asked about the other players willing to step up in key situations and they did not solely depend on him. “We want guys to stay aggressive. When you get the ball, if you can shoot it, shoot it. If you can’t, pass it. Play basketball the right way. But it just goes to shows how much these guys work on their game because no moment is too good for them, no matter who it is. As we start to get our guys back, we will start to have more guys that can do that”.
Miami now will look to maintain their top spot in the East and have reached an important number of wins this season at a crucial time. This is the sixth time that the Heat got to 30 wins in less than 50 games. In those previous five, they got to the NBA finals.