In the Miami Heat’s win over the Toronto Raptors, Jimmy Butler came up big late in the fourth quarter. This isn’t anything new for him, but it was interesting that he displayed his offensive abilities in every possible way in the last five minutes of the game.
So, here’s a look at the ways he closed this game out for Miami…
– The jumper looked smooth
Butler’s jumper has been an interesting topic for Miami, since it struggles in the regular season, but usually coming through when it truly matters, either the playoffs or late in games.
On this play, Miami had a few mismatches that they were looking to take advantage of. Kelly Olynyk had the smaller Kyle Lowry guarding him, so he faked a dribble hand-off to Duncan Robinson and attacked the basket. All four Toronto defenders collapsed, so Olynyk made the correct pass out to an open Butler for a triple.
Butler would usually pause, let the defender fly by, and put his head down to get to the basket, but it seemed like he was feeling the jumper. It’s never been an issue of form for his down shooting numbers, since free throw shooting always stay high, which always leads to the common denominator, his lift.
But well, the lift was there down the stretch.
– Controlling the break with his eyes
Playing the game to your own speed is a phrase that is used quite freely when discussing NBA players, but it describes Butler perfectly.
On this possession, he gets the steal on one end, leading to a clear fast-break on the other end. In no rush at all, he evaluates the floor, noticing he has a 3 on 1 opportunity with Andre Iguodala trailing. To maximize every option, he cuts immediately to the middle of the floor, which is when he utilizes his eyes to his advantage.
His unique passing abilities make the defense uncomfortable, which is why the slightest glance and body turn towards Robinson, eliminated Fred VanVleet from the attack. He then took it up with ease for a layup with zero contest, which tends to happen frequently when the physical Butler gets downhill.
– One more look at Butler’s lift
As I discussed Butler’s catch and shoot lift in the half-court, the mechanics of his jumper is what we were evaluating. But when pull-up triples are falling, this solidifies the original thought.
By that I mean, his lift being the overall theme of his shooting roller coaster is clearly true. I don’t remember the last time Butler utilized his legs to this extent on a three ball, leading to a high arcing ball going in the hoop. And by the way, high arcing three balls haven’t occurred a lot for Butler lately.
This shot also displays the confident factor that is instilled in any basketball player. The shot that I showed earlier is the reason for him taking this pull-up three, since if that one clanked off the back of the rim, he would have went right at the rim to draw a foul. This isn’t an element that will be relied on for long, but it must be something teammates instill in him, just as he does for others.
– The scoring leads to more foul line opportunities
After Butler’s scoring was rolling in this current stretch, there’s always a moment that he gets back to his strengths, which is drawing fouls.
There was confidence all night for Toronto when Lowry was guarding him in the pick and roll, since he would cut him off low, forcing him to take mid-range pull-ups. On this play, though, VanVleet was not allowing Butler to take him one-on-one, so he dropped down far off of Kendrick Nunn on the perimeter.
Butler noticing this, keeps the ball way up above his head, especially as he slices two much smaller defenders. This abrupt movement leads to the whistle being blown, getting him back to his favorite spot on the court: The charity stripe.
– Reading situations, capitalizing on current flow
Instead of draining the clock a bit with a 9 point lead late in the fourth, Butler was completely riding on his late-game momentum.
After the inbound, Bam Adebayo ran a side pick and roll with Butler, which Lowry switched this time. The one shot Toronto’s defense was allowing off of this set was a Butler mid-range pull-up, as mentioned earlier. And with zero hesitation, he rose over the top of OG Anunoby, hitting the shot to take an 11 point lead.
These late-game reads and moments seem to be rubbing off on his teammates, especially Adebayo. He knows that the ball must be in their hands down the stretch, which is why he took some good looks during this spurt as well. But, Butler’s hot hand led to him playing his usual impactful role, allowing Butler to get to those spots that I displayed.
This type of all-around play that is being seen from Butler should not be understated, since it’s truly impressive that he’s leading this team on a huge regular season turnaround.