Friday, June 2 2023

FOX Sports writers are providing takeaways from games throughout the NBA playoffs. Here are their thoughts from Monday.

Heat 119, Bucks 114: Jimmy Butler puts Bucks on the brink

Where to even start? How do you properly capture that performance in words? 

We could recite the numbers, and I guess that’s as good a place as any to begin. So: 56 points (!), tied for the fourth-highest individual total in playoff history, 22 of which came in the fourth quarter, and he shot 19-for-28 from the field, and he hit 15 of his 18 free-throws. 

Oh, and Jimmy Butler did much of that work while going up against Jrue Holiday, probably the best perimeter defender in the game. And Butler also spent a ton of time guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo, not exactly an easy assignment. And somehow, Butler managed to do all that, and play 41 minutes, and now the Heat, after a stunning 119-114 win in Miami, own a 3-1 series lead over the top-seeded Bucks. And just for context, here’s how teams up 3-1 have done throughout NBA history:

But you know what was most stunning about Butler’s performance on Monday night? That these sorts of outbursts are no longer surprising, that you’re no longer shocked when he rises up from behind the 3-point line and buries a go-ahead jumper in crunch time.

There was the 35-point, 11-assist performance with which Butler opened the series. And remember last year’s conference finals against the Boston Celtics, when he went for 41 points in Game 1, 47 points in Game 6, and 35 points in Game 7? And who can forget his ridiculous, meme-making 2020 run during the Finals in the bubble, when he torched the Los Angeles Lakers by racking up a pair of triple-doubles, one to go along with 40 points and one to go along with 35. 


Yet something about what he did Monday night against the Bucks just felt different. 

For one, the Bucks are a loaded team; there’s a reason they entered the playoffs as title favorites. Also, this Heat roster is just not very good. It’s rolling out a starting lineup featuring Gabe Vincent, Max Struss and Kevin Love

Butler has to do everything for the Heat. So far this series — and since arriving in Miami four years ago — he’s done exactly that. Butler has repeatedly carried the Heat further than they deserved. More interesting, though, is the reputation he’s solidified for himself. Playoff Jimmy is a real thing. And it’s something basketball fans are going to be talking about for years to come. 

— Yaron Weitzman

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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Source: FOX Sports


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