Heat vs Celtics: Jimmy Butler earned the right to go for the knockout in Game 7, and here are three reasons why

Heat vs Celtics: Jimmy Butler earned the right to go for the knockout in Game 7, and here are three reasons why

If you disconnected from Game 7 when the Boston Celtics went up 13 with three and a half minutes left, you made a mistake. The Heat stormed back on an 11-0 run and actually had possession, down two, with the shot clock off.

Even better, the ball was in the hands of Jimmy Butler, who was phenomenal again in Game 7 after scoring 47 in Game 6. Butler rebounded from a miss by Marcus Smart and pushed, and in the congestion of the semi-transitional crossover match, he had Al Horford in front of him with the floor perfectly spread out and no help on the rim – a seemingly ideal situation to put his head down and drive for a lay-up, one of his swivel paint finishes or a fault.

But Butler didn’t do that. Instead, down two, he attempted to land the knockout blow, stopping for the potentially game-winning 3-pointer with just under 17 seconds left.

Had that shot been fired, Butler, based on what the Celtics could have done at the other end with plenty of time left on the clock, was in line to etch his legacy as one of the most successful performers. in playoff history. But he didn’t come in, and now the criticism is coming. Was it really the right move to take in this situation?

In a vacuum, no, it probably wasn’t the best decision. Butler isn’t a good 3-point shooter, and he’s a beast that goes to the edge and finishes or fouls. Again look at the space he had to operate at full steam against a retreating big man.

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There’s not a single defensive foot in the paint behind Horford. Continuing downhill probably would have been the better play. There’s no doubt the stats would suggest that. That said, consider these three things in regards to Butler’s decision and what his split second thought process could have been.

1. Horford is no slouch

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Butler had taken a similar opportunity early in the offense to attack the rim through an open lane, and although he finished the bucket, Horford contested it so vigorously that closer examination revealed that Butler had to clear with his arm off. , for what should have been called an offensive foul, even to get the shot.

Granted, Horford wasn’t the one to stay ahead of Butler in this play, like he was on the play in question, but Horford is more than capable of moving his feet around the perimeter, and chances are, if he stays reasonably close to where he can challenge on the rim, the officials are going to give him plenty of leeway to defend aggressively at this stage of a Game 7. Was all of that on Butler’s mind? while the final possession was played? I do not know. But it could have been.

2. Butler must have been exhausted

Butler played all 48 minutes of Game 7 after scoring 47 points in a game-changing win at Boston two days earlier. Going through Horford and finishing what would surely have been a lot of contact might have required more gas than Butler thought he had left in his tank.

It’s important, too, considering that even if Butler had been able to finish, or foul and make two free throws, it would have only tied the score. If Miami had then been able to stop on the next possession, Butler would have had to play, at the very least, five more minutes in overtime.

It would have been 53 minutes on Butler’s already sloppy knee, and the Heat had nowhere to turn to attack. Could it really have summoned enough juice to sustain the load overtime as well? Through this lens, finishing the game in one shot certainly had understandable appeal.

3. Butler had the same shot in the first half

Even though none of what I suggested above crossed Butler’s mind as he dribbled down the court, and in the end he just felt good about the pull-up 3 in front he had a reason why he felt good. He had made the exact same shot in the first half.

Indeed, Butler is not a great 3-point shooter. But he came into Game 7 34% deep in the playoffs, and he was coming off 4-for-8-of-3 in Miami’s Game 6 win.

All that to say Butler, despite scoring just four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter on Sunday, earned the right to stop for that shot with a chance to send the Heat to the Finals. He had 35 points on Sunday. That’s 82 points over the last two games of this series. In every round, Butler refused to let the Heat roll. He was the best player this post-season. In any team. I don’t even really think it’s debatable. He felt good about the shot, it was a clean look and he was brave enough to take it. You live with your best player who makes that decision every time, even though the hindsight will always be 20-20.

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