It wasn’t the first time Jimmy Butler got brutally honest about the problems plaguing the Miami Heat this season. And it definitely won’t be the last. The five-time All-Star forward is a master motivator and doesn’t care who he offends.
Butler popped off for 26 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday night’s 128-124 victory, falling just one assist short of his first triple-double of the reboot. The team saw four different players hit double digits in scoring, including a game-high 31 points from Tyler Herro.
The offense was clicking and the flow resembled a “pickup game” in the first half, to quote Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. Unfortunately, the defensive effort has been an after-thought at times through the first eight games. It’s something Butler pointed out last week and blamed on laziness after beating the Washington Wizards.
“Offense has never been a problem for us, never will be,” Butler told reporters on Saturday night. “I think for whatever five guys we put out there, we just got to find a way to get stops. I think we’re all comfortable, we’re all confidant, but, man, we got to get some stops.”
The Heat are allowing opponents to score 114 points per game in their four losses while surrendering 105 points per game in their four wins. Teams are only shooting 43.5% from the field versus Miami, but those turnovers — 17.5 per game, second-worst in the NBA — have caused them fits.
“I think we just be playing dumb sometimes, like we don’t know where we’re supposed to be,” Butler said. “We don’t know what guys strengths are … playing dumb, lazy, not paying attention, whatever the case may be. We just got to be better. It’s not any one particular guy, everyone as a whole.”
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Butler ‘Real Luxury’ for Heat Squad
There is much more to Butler’s game than what shows up in the stat sheet. He’s out there lighting fires under teammates every day at practice by challenging them. And the fact that he isn’t a high-volume shooter — 12.2 shots per game for his career — allows them opportunities to build confidence.
“I see it every day in practice,” point guard Goran Dragic told reporters. “He’s one of those superstars that he’s not going take, let’s say 25 shots. He’s playing an all-around game. He’s going to play defense. He’s going to pass. He’s going to score, whatever the team needs at that moment, he’s going to do it. That’s a real luxury to have on our team. And I love him. He’s a tremendous player.”
Dragic stepped up big time on Saturday night by connecting on seven 3-pointers and finishing with 21 points. The team rode a dominating third quarter where they outscored the Wizards 28-15 before resting some starters. Eleven Heat players saw action, including eight tough minutes from center Meyers Leonard who was dealing with a shoulder strain.
Butler was just happy to get the “dub” because stats don’t really matter to him. It’s the same philosophy the Heat rode to an NBA Finals appearance a few months ago.
“I don’t play for stats,” Butler said. “It is what it is. I’m just glad we got a dub on the road, see how many of them we can string together. Triple double or no triple double, I think I speak for everybody when I say I think we’d rather just have a win.”
Next Up, Two Games Against Philadelphia
The Heat are stuck in limbo as they wait to clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols before traveling to Philadelphia for a two-game set. When that game can be played is anyone’s guess right now.
The Sixers are dealing with their own COVID-19 problems and were forced to play a game with just seven players available on Saturday. They lost 115-103 despite cries from Philly head coach Doc Rivers to postpone the game. The league wouldn’t listen or accommodate them.
“It’s crazy but we still gotta go out and compete if our name’s called,” Butler said. “And if you can’t play, you just can’t play. But I don’t think nobody is going out there with or without this COVID and expecting to lose. Everybody is trying to stay safe and keep it away from as many people as you can.”
The Heat and Sixers have met 124 times in the regular season, with Miami leading the all-time series 64-60. The Heat have won the last three games dating back to Dec. 18, 2019.
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