Jimmy Butler was locked in from the beginning of Game 6 in Boston. He ended the first half with 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals. His energy and hustle helped the Heat head into the half with a 48-46 lead.
He didn’t stop there, though, as Butler’s assault on the Celtics continued in the third quarter as he helped them push the lead to as much as 13 points and kept getting buckets.
Butler saved his best for last, though, as he refused to let the Celtics win. Boston took a 97-94 lead with 4:43 left in the game, and seemed to be ready to take the momentum away, but the end of the game belonged to Butler, who somehow still had enough left in the tank even after playing the entire second half. The last couple of minutes belong to him, and he was the one who gave Miami the lead back with a crucial and-one with 2:06 left in the game.
Butler, on a bum knee, ended up playing 46 minutes. He finished with the best playoff game of his career so far with 47 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, four steals, a block, and a lone turnover. He shot 16 of 29 from the field, 4 of 8 from three, and made all 11 free throw attempts. Those numbers are crazy considering how banged up his body is.
This was one of those games that adds to a player’s legend. It was a roughly officiated matchup, with the refs botching a lot of calls for both sides. It was the kind of contest where someone just needed to lock in, put their head down, and play basketball. That’s exactly what Butler did. The ridiculous fadeaway that he hit with 43.9 seconds left in the game to pad the lead, after tweaking his ankle a few minutes before, was a signature playoffs moment that will be on replay reels for years to come.
When his team needed him most, Jimmy Buckets delivered in spades. I’m in awe at his sheer strength of will, and now anything can happen in Game 7 when the Heat play in front of their own fans. Many fans, including me, thought that a finals matchup between the Celtics and Warriors was a lock, but someone had other ideas. Considering that he’d averaged nine points in Games 3-5, it’s unreal that Butler was able to deliver this kind of performance just when the Heat were losing hope.
The rest of the Heat will have to step up in Game 7 now, because their star and leader will need their help. Butler’s efforts have given them one last chance at getting back to the NBA Finals, and he deserves some reciprocation. After taking this 111-103 Heat win, anything can now happen in this memorable and highly entertaining Eastern Conference Finals.