With Jimmy Butler, the Heat feel emboldened to go far

With the return of most of the injured players, and especially their star Jimmy Butler, the Heat feel emboldened to go far in the NBA playoffs.

The goal is not far-fetched, because last season the Miami franchise played in the Finals and lost against the Denver Nuggets. This time the ambition is greater: to win the club’s fourth title.

Butler reappeared with a performance called “phenomenal” by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, after beating the Nets 96-95, in overtime, on January 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The 34-year-old forward scored 31 points the night of his return, after missing seven consecutive games and 11 of the last 12.

Spoelstra was full of praise for Butler, pointing to him as an example for young people interested in learning to play basketball.

“His performance against the Nets was phenomenal,” exclaimed Spoelstra. “We must never forget his greatness. The fact that he scored 31 points on only 12 shots is just one fact. That must be studied by each of the young people who reach the NBA, where one does not need to be a sniper or shoot many times to score 30 points. One can do it efficiently if you choose the right shots and find the gaps and weaknesses of the opponent with your identity. “That’s what Jimmy does.”

Butler, seen by many as one of the best players in the NBA today

Since the arrival in 2019 of the player born in Houston, Texas, the Heat have played in the Eastern Conference finals three times in the four in which they qualified for the playoffs.

In the Miami team’s victory in the Eastern Conference finals last season, Butler was named the Most Valuable Player and his production was 26.9 points per game in the playoffs.

Just as in the last decade, the Heat had their Big Three with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, this time they also have a Golden Trio with Butler, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.

Injuries, however, have prevented Butler, Herro and Adebayo from being able to play together in a row and in the first 40 games of the season they have only done so nine times.

“We need more time together, especially as we approach the All-Star break and the playoffs,” Herro said. “Of course this is part of what happens in the NBA campaign. The ideal would be to have everyone healthy, but no one can guarantee that.”

The NBA All-Star Game program for the 2023-24 season will be February 16-18 in Indianapolis.

The plague of injuries that occurred with the Heat is better than it was at the beginning of the season and not at the end like what happened to the Dolphins, who in the last two games of the regular season and in the playoffs could not count on half a dozen of key players and were eliminated in the first round.

The Heat, on the other hand, are successfully emerging from the injury epidemic that at one point left Butler, Herro, Adebayo, Haywood Highsmith, Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin in the infirmary.

Young Heat prospects exceed expectations

The positive side is that the coach gave his young men a chance, who exceeded all expectations.

Jaime Jacquez Jr. played in 39 of the first 40 games of the season and was recently sidelined against the Nets due to an injury. His contribution was so notable that last December the NBA chose him as the Rookie of the Month in the Eastern Conference.

The Serbian Nikola Jovic remained close to a dozen games as a starter and is led intelligently and patiently by Spoelstra, who believes that the 20-year-old player gives another dimension to the team.

Jamal Cain was also a revelation. If the injuries had not occurred – which no one wants – Spoelstra would not have had the opportunity to test these guys who came in with the ambition of wanting to take over the field and managed to show themselves.

Now with almost all of the players healthy, the problem lies with the coach who will have to rack his brain choosing the best and rotating them wisely to distribute the loads appropriately.

This way he will be able to reach his full potential at the moment of truth in the playoffs. For now it is the absolute leader in its Southeast division.