By Jeff Zillgitt
Jimmy Butler slumped over a digital advertising display near the Miami Heat bench with 46.7 seconds left in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday.
About 30 minutes later, the Miami Heat All-Star hobbled into the press conference room.
“I left it all out there on the floor along with my guys, and that’s how we’re going to have to play from here on out,” Butler said.
The man was exhausted after a triple-double — 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals — in all but 48 seconds of a 48-minute game in Miami’s 111-108 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers. He generated his points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field and 12-for-12 on free throws.
Jimmy Butler is nearly averaging a triple-double in the NBA Finals.
“Jimmy, again, his will to win is remarkable,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “To do that in 47-plus minutes and take the challenge on the other end. Every young player coming into this league should study footage on Jimmy Butler, the definition of a two-way player competing on both ends, five steals, and then making those big plays down the stretch for us offensively.”
And there will be a Game 6 with the Lakers leading the series 3-2.
“Like I always say, it’s win or win for us,” Butler said. “But this is the position that we’re in. We like it this way. We got two more in a row to get.”
That will be difficult, but if there’s a place to overcome a 3-1 deficit, it’s in a bubble where the Denver Nuggets did it twice in the Western Conference playoffs.
“We’re in it to win it, we’re not backing down, we’re not scared of nobody,” Butler said.
Contrary to what most believe, the Heat have the confidence they can win two more games in the series.
“Look, man, I can say it every time I’m up here, but we live for these moments,” Butler said. “The work that we put in, we’re built for this, we have been doing this all year long. This didn’t just start in the bubble. We have been playing together, win, loss, draw, whatever, we’re in this thing together. And that’s what’s going to win us games.”
Butler’s performance in the Finals has been sensational. He had a 40-point triple-double in Miami’s Game 3 victory and is averaging 29 points, 10.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 2.6 steals and shooting 55.8% from the field and 92% on foul shots against the Lakers.
Butler is having the kind of series that generates talk of Finals MVP, even if the Heat lose the series.
In the final minutes of Game 5, Butler and LeBron James traded points in a mesmerizing battle of elite competitors. James had seven points in the final three minutes, and Butler scored eight of Miami’s final 10 points in the last 1:51. Four came on free throws, and the Lakers weren’t happy with the fouls. But that doesn’t matter.
As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says, sometimes the game really does come down to the old cliché.
“That’s the beauty of the game, being able to compete at the highest level,” James said. “You take those opportunities and you live in the moment. You’re trying to make plays for your team and be successful on both ends, and we were both just trying to do that and trying to will our team to a victory. You know, he was able to make one more play than I was able to make tonight and come away with a victory.”
Butler has played 42.7 minutes per game, including 45, 45, 43 and 47 minutes in the past four games. On Saturday, Butler plans to get rest and treatment, but he didn’t know exactly what recovery process the Heat training staff had planned for him.
“I’m going to go back and talk to (trainer) Armando (Rivas) and whatever he says do, I guess I got to do,” Butler said. “I really hate when people tell me what to do, by the way, but I know that he has my best interests at heart and he’ll probably tell me what to do in Spanish as well.”
Whatever the language, the Heat need to get Butler ready for Sunday. Because they might need him for all 48 minutes.
Culled from USAToday.
By Jeff Zillgitt