After Jimmy Butler missed the previous two games against the Atlanta Hawks, he made the trip to New Orleans and ended up suiting up. And well, those two missed games didn’t seem to take him out of his rhythm, since he took over late in the fourth, shooting the ball as well as he ever has in a Miami Heat uniform.
So, let’s take a look into this Butler scoring dominance right before the All-Star break…
– The missing piece without Butler
Before diving completely into Butler’s late game offensive play, the biggest thing Miami missed without him must be noted first. And that is a downhill presence, both in transition and half-court offense.
The transition offense, which is shown in the first clip, just shows the missing piece of reading situations and capitalizing on them. Miami had a 5 on 4 opportunity, which basically means find Jimmy Butler to create a mismatch or so he can take it right into a defenders chest, and he did just that.
The second clip is the more important element. One of the reasons Miami lost to Atlanta in the previous game was that nobody could get to the rim consistently, which led to constant reliance on three point shots falling. But when Butler’s on the floor, they can get back to their drive-and-kick offensive play, which he can score at the basket at will whenever he chooses to do so.
– Stagnant offense to Butler offense
The six minute mark in the fourth quarter is when Butler pretty much said he was taking over. New Orleans cut Miami’s lead to two points, and the Heat were having major trouble getting into a flow on this possession.
They ended up resetting at the top of the key, flowing into a Goran Dragic-Butler pick and roll. Due to a low shot clock, Josh Hart edged up high on the pick, leading to Dragic lobbing the pass for the rolling Butler. He then rises up at the basket for a layup with Steven Adams contesting, and converts.
Without Bam Adebayo, it seemed like a good set to run with Dragic and Butler, since there’s an immense amount of trust in those veteran guys late in games. I’d also like to see that action run throughout a game more often, since both of them can put their head down and charge the basket, which makes for a unique set.
– Jumpers are falling, legs are rested
This shot from Butler pretty much tells you how the night was going for him, since he doesn’t even attempt shots like this unless he’s feeling it.
But the part to evaluate here is the level of rise he had on this turnaround jumper. When people ask about Butler’s shooting stroke, I always mention it’s completely about his legs. And after missing two games due to knee inflammation, giving him an extra rest, his rise looked better than ever, while the knee swelling was clearly gone.
It’s another reason this team has to feel great about Butler getting a week off at home, instead of a busy All-Star weekend. Miami will be looking to make a second half push, and a rested Jimmy Butler will be at his peak levels.
– The Robinson treatment
Once again, when offense becomes stagnant on a possession, just find Jimmy Butler.
Take a look at Josh Hart guarding Butler on this possession, since he’s basically getting the Duncan Robinson treatment. He gets denied on the first DHO, but immediately comes back into the opposite direction. Hart goes back under the screen this time, and Butler’s slight pump-fake gets both Hart and Adams in the air.
Obviously he made an incredible and-1 triple, but it’s the setup and defensive scheme that stands out more. If teams were to worry about Butler on the perimeter in this fashion, it’ll be an endless night for the opposing team with the amount of dribble penetration he’d present.
– Bail-Out Butler
There were many possessions late in this game where Miami was in awkward positions late in the shot clock. But well, it’s not that awkward when the ball can be given to Butler to bail you out.
As mentioned earlier, these types of shot attempts are pretty rare from him, but there’s a confident feeling when he attempts them since he only does it when the deep ball is feeling good.
Although he has a one-on-one opportunity with a good defender, in Eric Bledsoe, all of the signs were point toward getting to the rim. Late shot clock, under 3 minutes to go, 8 point game, and most importantly, a smaller defender. But instead, a step-back triple with a heavy contest was attempted, and ultimately knocked down.
This Heat team has been in plenty of late-game situations this season, which may be a good thing for their offensive execution down the stretch come playoff time. But it also has given major clarity for this team, since the amount of trust this team has in Butler at that point in the game is very high, while Butler reciprocates that right back.
Therefore, caps off the importance of the Jimmy Butler effect.