Jimmy Butler led the Heat to a 115-104 victory over the Bucks on Monday and is far from the toxic character he is made out to be, according to coach Erik Spoelstra.
Butler took over in the fourth quarter and scored an NBA playoffs career-best 40 points to put the Heat 1-0 up on the top-seeded Bucks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
The five-time All-Star left the Bulls in acrimonious circumstances in 2017 and was traded by the Timberwolves the following year after falling out with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. When the 76ers failed to make him a priority in free agency in the past offseason, he signed with the Heat.
Spoelstra feels Butler has landed in the ideal environment and flourished in the confines of the NBA bubble near Orlando, Florida.
“These are extreme circumstances, they’re not easy for anybody. And you need a level of discipline, of structure, and camaraderie,” said Spoelstra, via ESPN. “Jimmy, despite what, probably, the narrative is out there, he’s a very likable guy in the locker room, and I think that helps in a setting like this.
“He just fits everything about us, our fabric and who we are. Make or miss, everybody feels comfortable when he’s making those decisions. He happened to score [on Monday] but he’s a very unselfish player.
“It’s not just about him scoring the basketball, he makes the appropriate reads depending on what’s needed for that particular game. They [the Bucks] stepped up their defense, though, and you have to give them credit for that, and we basically had to put the ball in his hands.
“He wants these kinds of moments.”
Butler said teammates Andre Iguodala, Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson told him to win the game for Miami, but he hopes other members of the team get to shine in the rest of the series.
“I told my teammates I probably wasn’t gonna pass the ball,” Butler said of his approach down the stretch. “I made a couple shots, and they said, ‘That’s fine with me.’
“I don’t know if it will be like that next game. I hope Tyler [Herro] is the one that’ll be in the position where he feels like the rim is so big that he can’t miss, or Goran, or Bam [Adebayo]. We’ve got a lot of guys that are so comfortable, so confident. We’re okay.”
He added: “I’ve learned [to be able to take over games], but I’ve watched so many great players. And it’s great to have D-Wade [Dwyane Wade] in my corner, I’m telling you.
“He’s always in my phone, telling me about the game, what to look for. He’s been a huge help. He’s the first person that texts me tonight whenever I get back to the locker room.
“I’m learning. I’ve been learning. I will continue to learn. I just want to win, though. I can’t say it enough.”
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