Observations and other notes of interest from Friday night’s 111-103 NBA playoff victory over the Boston Celtics:
– Yes, Jimmy Butler had to call it a night at halftime of Game 3.
– Yes, he hardly was his typical aggressive self in Game 4 and 5.
– No matter what the Heat did, or did not, offer on their injury report, the issue there is real.
– The knee, or something connected to the knee, has not been right.
– But this effort also showed plenty of who Butler is and what he is for this team.
– With his team facing elimination, he mustered.
– In the scoring column.
– On the boards.
– With his passing.
– And on the defensive end.
– The 2020 bubble seemed to be the height of playoff Jimmy, in that Heat run to the NBA Finals.
– But what these efforts, particularly Friday’s, show is that there still is plenty there.
– Even as some point to his age.
– Or the remaining years on his contract.
– He remains a force.
– LeBron James once walked into this arena in must-win Game 6 and showed out.
– Considering Butler’s bum knee, the mere fact he showed up with this type of effort showed plenty.
– Too many years left on a contract that run through the 36th birthday?
– Not an argument on this night.
– Just a study in perseverance.
–True to his word at the morning shootaround, Heat coach Spoelstra stayed with his starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, P.J. Tucker, Butler, Kyle Lowry and Max Strus.
– Even with Lowry slowed by his hamstring strain.
– Even with Strus arguably entering amid his worst NBA slump.
– With the start, Tucker moved past Giannis Antetokounmpo for 99th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– With their starts, Butler and Lowry moved past Buck Williams for 77th on the NBA all-time playoff list and tied Kevin Johnson for 76th.
– With his start, Adebayo tied Shaquille O’Neal for seventh on the Heat all-time playoff list.
– The Celtics opened with their when-healthy usual of Al Horford, Robert Williams III, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
– A pair of quick Tucker fouls had Caleb Martin entering as the Heat’s first reserve.
– Gabe Vincent then followed.
– Then Duncan Robinson, in the wake of the Heat’s 5-of-8 start from the field.
– With Victor Oladio entering at the start of the second period, making it nine deep.
– Which left Dewayne Dedmon again removed from the equation, as also was the case in Game 5.
– Lowry’s first assist came 71 seconds in. He did not have one in Wednesday night’s Game 5.
– He then converted a 3-pointer with 9:02 to play in the opening period, his first points in two games.
– Lowry’s first assist moved him past Sam Cassell for 45th on the NBA all-time playoff list. His third moved him past Julius Erving for 44th.
– Butler’s second point moved him past Sam Perkins for 77th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– Butler’s first 3-point attempt moved him past former Heat guard Mario Chalmers for 76th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– Butler’s third assist moved him past Pau Gasol for 71st on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– Butler’s 17th point moved him past Hal Greer for 75th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– Butler’s second free-throw attempt moved him past Chris Paul for 59th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– Spoelstra was asked pregame about the success of the Celtics with the short roll of guard Derrick White.
– “Yeah, you just have to have ultra-awareness on the weak side,” he said. “It’s almost like you have to visualize that he’s a 7-footer. You would never allow a 7-footer just to go untouched through the lane. So it’s just a different dynamic.”
– Spoelstra added, “We’ve been able to manage that before. Most teams eventually do get to that against us, particularly in the playoffs.”
– Considering the Celtics were down 3-2 before eliminating the Bucks in the previous round, Celtics coach Ime Udoka was taking nothing for granted.
– “We’ve been in this position before, Game 6 against Milwaukee,” he said pregame. “We understand Miami’s mindset coming out. Have to match that intensity, sense of urgency and physicality they’re going to bring.”
– He added, “We’ve talked about being the hunted – the hunter, earlier in the series against Milwaukee. Now we’re on the other side.”
– Udoka did not exactly reminisce pregame about being in 11th place in the East as late as Jan. 16, but he did take time to reflect.
– “We weren’t even thinking that far down the road honestly. We were thinking about getting healthy, understanding the system we were trying to put in place,” he said. “We always had glimpses of success. We were just trying to be consistent for the most part, understanding that we were really good defensively all along. Offensively trying to get our guys on the same page, get them to understand what we needed from them. That was the goal at that point.”
– He added, “But we did see good things early on at times. Just up and down, inconsistent a little bit. But we were always optimistic if we got healthy and our defense would carry over, offensively we’d continue to improve. The good signs were we played really good against the big teams. We had some poor losses against some of the lesser teams. For the most part we were competing against the best teams. That bodes well for the future.”
– David Ortiz was among those in the crowd.
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