Kevin Love had his best game in a Miami Heat uniform during the team’s Saturday win over Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. In 19 minutes off the bench for head coach Erik Spoelstra, Love scored 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting (and 2-of-5 from deep) while adding five rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Following the 129-122 victory, however, Love was as hyped — or more — over the performance of South Beach’s top star, Jimmy Butler, whose 22 first-half points set a tone for Miami.
For his part, though, Love believes that it’s the way Butler finishes that really sets him apart — and that was certainly on display during the game’s waning moments.
“One of the best closers in the game,” Love declared after the win. “I’ll take Jimmy Butler over pretty much anybody in the league when it comes down to winning the game. When it comes down to six minutes, four minutes, two minutes — making the last play — that’s why he is who he is.
“He brings so much out of this team. He expects so much of himself. And that’s why we love him; he leads us every single night.”
Heat Star Jimmy Butler Has Been Coming Through in Late-Game Situations
Butler had an incredible game from top to bottom for the Heat, scoring 35 points on 12-of-16 shooting. He also added 12 assists — with zero turnovers — and three boards for good measure. In doing so, he passed LeBron James for the most Heat games with 35-plus points and 10-plus dimes (playoffs and regular season).
His four still fall well short of the mark set by Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade (who did it 15 times), but I digress.
As good as he was throughout the night, Butler took special care to prevent the Mavs from bouncing back during crunch time. All nine of the baller’s fourth-quarter points came in the final four minutes and 39 seconds of the contest.
Hitting paydirt down the stretch has been Butler’s MO of late, though.
Over his last five appearances, he has connected on 61.1% of his fourth-quarter field-goal attempts (he’s at 50.9% for the season). And, overall, the Heat have outscored opponents by 9.8 points per 100 possessions in the final five minutes of games with margins of five points or fewer when Butler has been on the floor.
Heat Rookie Jamal Cain Could Parlay G League Growth Into Bigger Opportunity Next Season
Jamal Cain, who’s in his first pro year as a two-way baller for the Heat and the Sioux Falls Skyforce, has struggled mightily from three-point range in 15 appearances with the big club. It’s only a 12-shot sample size, but he’s currently at 16.7% from behind the arc.
And he didn’t exactly light it up from long-range during his final collegiate season at Oakland, either, connecting on 29.8% of his triples.
However, he has shown signs of coming around in the G League this season, which leads Heat.com’s Couper Moorhead to believe that the 24-year-old could have a bigger impact as a second-year player in 2023-24:
Cain hit the go-ahead three a few nights ago to propel the Sioux Falls Skyforce to the G League Western Conference Finals. He’s now shooting 37.5 percent on threes in the G League, on 56 attempts, and 60 percent on two pointers. Scoring is generally inflated in the G-League, but the fact that Cain has been so efficient from the perimeter is a great sign for the future. He’s got the defense tools, so if you add a reliable shot to the package, along with his natural athleticism, the HEAT might have another competitor for rotation minutes next season.