The White Hot Heat -- A shot at history as the first 8th seed to win an NBA Championship.
“We don’t care if you pick us to win -- We never have, we never will.”
After the Heat went into TD Garden and stole Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Jimmy Butler was about as blunt as can be: “Our circle is small, but this circle got so much love for one another.”
Butler tallied 35 points and 6 steals in Miami’s 123-116 win at Boston. His teammates followed efficiently, with Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin, and Kyle Lowry all scoring 15 points. Bam Adebayo chipped in with 20 points on 9-13 FG, and the Heat were off to the races in what would be a demolition of a series.
In Game 2, despite a slow start and an eight-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter, Butler and the Heat had 2-0 at the front of their minds. Reminiscent of the Dillon Brooks-LeBron James “Don’t poke the bear” incident in the Western Conference Playoffs, Celtics’ forward Grant Williams poked the next worst thing – Florida’s deadliest alligator.
With 6:37 left in the game, Williams sank a three-point shot on Jimmy Butler to put the C’s up nine. The forward felt inclined to tell the Miami superstar about his shot, and Butler just smirked, like “seriously?”
With 6:22 left and the Heat down nine, Butler drove the ball into and through Williams, spinning and drilling a turnaround push shot, drawing an “and-one” in the process. Butler went straight to Williams, confronting the forward face-to-face, nose-to-nose.
“Yaaaaa. Let’s Go! Let’s Go!”
The two competitors had to be separated – Butler for his uber-aggression and Williams for getting cooked on national television.
Butler would make the free throw to cut the lead to six. After a defensive stop on the other end, Playoff Jimmy smelt blood in the water, eyeing his prey for round two of what would be a long fourth quarter for Grant Williams.
Butler took Williams to the far corner – iso ball, one-on-one, mano a mano.
He drove the ball with his left hand, stopped, elevated, and sank a two-foot floater over the outstretched arm of Williams. Butler gave the 6’6” Williams the “too small” hand gesture, as he walked back on defense down just four points.
With 2:58 left and the Heat down 98-100, Butler took Williams to the paint again, elevated, and drilled a mid-range jumper to tie the game.
On the very next possession, Butler took Williams to the far corner again, rose, and swished a line-drive baseline jumper to put Miami ahead 102-100. He ran down the floor yelling, “He’s f***ing sh***y.”
It was bully ball at its finest.
One guy was playing with his food, and the other was the food.
The Heat would win the affair 111-105, but Butler’s fireworks would continue beyond the court, even after his post-game interview with Allie LaForce.
After a series of professional answers in his interview on TNT, Butler exited the court talking to some of the Heat staff in a more “casual” fashion. He had this to say about Joe Mazzula and the Celtics’ decision to put Grant Williams on him in the fourth quarter:
“Come on, man. There’s no way they thought that was the answer. There’s no way.”
It wasn’t. Grant Williams had a nice game, but he poked the wrong bear. Rather, he poked the wrong Florida alligator.
Williams irritated the worst reptile on the worst day – an alligator who was laying in the tall grass and murky waters on the bank of a lake in South Florida, awaiting an overconfident, smug individual, who would be quick to provoke and even quicker to regret.
The Heat, headed by its scaled reptile leader, would head back to South Beach up 2-0 with 3-0 in their sights. In Game 3, Miami would rout the Celtics 128-102 in a game where they led by 30 points in the 4th quarter before both teams pulled their starters.
Miami held All-NBA stars Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown to 14 and 12 points, respectively.
With 8:59 left in the 3rd quarter and the Heat on a massive run, Gabe Vincent knocked down a three-point shot to put the Heat up by 23 points, and the Celtics called a timeout. Jimmy Butler took advantage of this pause in play to create another viral moment.
In Game 1, Al Horford made a corner three to extend the Celtics’ lead, Miami called a timeout, and Al Horford went down to one knee, mocking the Heat’s timeout call.
Clearly, Butler did not forget.
In Game 4, the Celtics showed some heart and won a tough battle on the road.
However, today, despite a 3-1 lead in the series, the Heat are an underdog in Game 5. When asked about the public perception of his team, the oddsmakers, and all other media buzz, Eric Spoelstra had this to say:
"We don't give a s**t."
Don’t be surprised if the Heat go into Boston and end the series there. Don’t be surprised if Butler drops 50 to send Miami to the NBA Finals. And don’t be surprised if the Heat go all the way – that is, beyond the Joker and his Denver Nuggets.
Playoff Jimmy is no myth.
Good luck, Denver.