Three years after the final loss to the Lakers, Jimmy Butler has a second chance to finally be crowned NBA champion with the Miami Heat, of which he asserts himself even more today as an exceptional leader, by dint of exploits but also exemplarity, during these playoffs.
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In 2020, in the anti-Covid bubble of Orlando, his performance had the effect of a revelation. Not for his talent, already recognized despite his inconclusive and often stormy passages in Chicago, Minnesota or Philadelphia, but for his ability to guide a group, he who was long stamped locker room poison. For his willingness to fight too, to the point of exhaustion, as in Game 5 where his monumental triple-double (40 pts, 11 rbds, 13 assists) offered a reprieve to Miami, which had finally yielded to the next game.
Butler has further improved with age: at 33, he remains the star of the team, with the attributes of a valiant captain, the one who federates, gives confidence and ensures the right atmosphere. Faded music, country especially as a good Texan of origin that he is, he is the DJ of the Heat in the locker room, but also and especially its conductor on the floor, the one who sets the la, who raises the note and that everyone follows in chorus. Because in Miami, when Jimmy says, Jimmy does.
The qualification to the finals, recorded Monday night after the 7th game won in Boston, is the most striking illustration, since Butler, vengeful and decisive with 28 points, kept his promise made a year earlier, just after the elimination at the same stage against these same Celtics. "Next year," he announced, "we will be in exactly the same position and, this time, we will finish the job.»
It is better not to titillate Jimmy Butler, Grant Williams paid to see in the finals of the Eastern Conference between Miami and Boston ... David Butler IIPanoramic
In this series, Butler has experienced electric moments, such as this head-to-head with Grant Williams whose provocation had no other effect than his thunderous awakening in Game 2, and others more difficult, the incessant two-man shots dropping his efficiency (24.7 pts average, 42% success). But neither doubt nor fear came over him when the Celtics rallied from 3-0 to 3-3, close to an unprecedented reversal that many promised them and that did not happen. "You have to have a guy you can hold on to, especially in moments of truth. I've said it before: there's no way to quantify the confidence he can inspire in everyone on the team. I've never seen anything like this," coach Erik Spoelstra said.
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In his wake, his teammates have turned into warriors. Butler galvanizes them as he frees them, and they to flourish alongside him, like Caleb Martin, playing the trigger at the expense of the Celtics, he the member of the quartet of undrafters also composed of Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson and Max Strus.
He has the energy of despair, he is in a hurry, manic and sometimes psychotic in his will to win.
Erik Spoelstra on Jimmy Butler
I believe so much in this group. It is because of them that we are here. I know what a good team we are, "paid tribute to Butler, who had nevertheless split a solo masterclass, in the first round of the playoffs, to stun the Bucks of Giannis Antetokounmpo, with peaks of 56 and 42 points in games No. 4 and No. 5, and a crazy skill to almost 60% success on the series. Spoelstra did not fail to remind us of what the soul of the Heat is. "He is us and we are him. A lot of people play basketball in this league, he fights to win. It is a different language. He has the energy of despair, he is in a hurry, manic and sometimes psychotic in his will to win. And he makes everyone feel it.»
Sometimes a little too strong, when last season, one evening in February when nothing was going well, a fight was narrowly avoided between the two men, at the edge of the field. The altercation did not cause any break, quite the contrary. "Jimmy never had to apologize. I don't want him to apologize for who he is and how he approaches competing. It's intense. It's not for everyone, and we're not for everyone. That's why we think it's like an amazing wedding," Spoelstra said. All they need is a ring to celebrate it with dignity.