Jimmy Butler’s Game 4 masterpiece, in 5 acts
Jimmy Butler’s Game 4 performance was one for the history books, putting the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in prime position to upset the NBA’s best regular-season team. There were 56 reasons that made Butler’s night so impressive, but we’ll compress it into five different acts to see how he provided Heat fans with one of the best individual performances they’ve scene.
Act 1: Jimmy Takeover #1
It was a 17-8 advantage for the Bucks and the game seemed to be slipping away early from the Heat’s grasp. So, it was time for Butler to take matters into his own hands. He went into a 20-16 run against the whole Bucks team and finished the first quarter with 22 points. And he did it by going at everyone, from everywhere. Jimmy went at Giannis Antetokounmpo both when he was his primary defender or when he switched onto him, finishing at the rim.
In classic Jimmy fashion, he once again turned into a dangerous outside shooter in a playoff game, going for three triples, two of them in his fantastic 20-point run. And, once again, he didn’t repeat himself, choosing to pull up with Middleton on him and then, a few possessions later, going with a quick catch-and-shoot over Jrue Holiday.
After the inside-and-out experiment, it was time to settle down in his favorite spot – the mid range. Didn’t matter who was in front of him, if it was early on the shot clock or even if he got fouled, Jimmy was getting to his spots anyway and seeing only the basket.
Act 2: Defense
You can’t be a two-way superstar by playing just one way and Butler wasn’t going to let the Bucks do what they wanted offensively.
Due to the Heat’s heavy-switching defensive scheme and utilization of Butler as more of a roamer, he wasn’t “glued” to anyone for a big part of the game, dividing his time with mostly everyone that saw the floor for the Bucks. He did allow Holiday to go 2 of 3 from the floor (after having to help on a drive and in transition) and Lopez went 3 for 4 (again helping on a driver, trying to catch the roller and on a desperation heave near the end), but everyone else shot 3 of 11 with Jimmy as their primary defender, including Giannis and Middleton going scoreless on five shots combined. Plus, all the times Bucks’ players just passed out of having to deal with Jimmy, instead of trying to finish.
But what did he do defensively that was so crucial for the Heat? He was tasked with defending Portis in the first half when he was in, to also have the opportunity to help and roam around paint. First, by cutting any possibility of a Holiday drive and forcing a kick out pass to Portis. And then, despite losing the rebound to Portis, being able to match his physicality inside and not allowing an easy shot for him.
Jimmy was really good on Giannis also. The Greek tried to overpower him, but was never able to, with Butler either forcing Giannis to take bad shots, get rid of the ball or turn it over.
Butler was also his own disruptive self on drives, staying with his man and waiting for the right moment to swipe at the ball and force a turnover, just like in this play against Holiday.
Act 3: Bouncing Back
Even after a 22-point first quarter, Butler had only two points in the second quarter. The Bucks must have felt pretty confident at that point. But they were wrong. A bit more methodical, Butler was able to find the shots he wanted and regain the participation he wanted in the game.
First, he went from the right wing in, with everyone spaced out on the other side, allowing Butler to go to work freely and to know where the help was coming. The Bucks were not really interested in sending a second man at Butler — and when they did, they weren’t aggressive enough — and so, Jimmy was just able to shoot as he pleased, be it on midrange pull-ups or by going to the rim. And again, attacking anyone who was on him.
With Jrue on him, the Bucks felt there wasn’t a need for help. Jimmy, on the other hand, felt it was the matchup he wanted and so he just went at him any time the opportunity presented itself. And he was comfortable too.
Act 4: Trust the confident hot hand
Caleb Martin seemed like he would go past this game without leaving his usual fingerprint, but amidst the Heat’s roaring comeback, there he was. Coming from the right side corner, he got the rebound off a Butler miss on the other side of the floor. Jimmy knew Martin wanted the ball and, more than that, he wanted the moment. So Jimmy fed him, even with Giannis on him. And Martin did not disappoint.
It makes sense that Butler would trust Caleb again, as he became electric in the final minutes. And with all the Bucks’ eyes on Jimmy, he drove into the paint and, instead of going to the expect mid range pull up, he once again found Martin for the 3.
Act 5: Jimmy Takeover #2
At this point in the game, Jimmy sensed blood in the water, and he went full predator mode. First, by putting a target on Middleton, who was playing with four fouls. He got to his spot on the first play quite easily. Second time, Middleton was a bit more physical, but so was Jimmy, who beat him to the basket and drew his fifth foul. The last play just sealed the deal. When most people would advise Butler to be prudent, he saw an opportunity. In transition, going at Middleton would mean he would get an easy bucket or he would get the Bucks’ wing and one of the best shot makers in the team to foul out, with one minute to play.
Actually, with the game on the line, transition was one of Butler’s main methods of attacking, making Milwaukee pay for its size. In the first play, the Heat have numbers after a miss and Lowry finds Jimmy trailing. Again, when most would advise a rim attack, Jimmy pulled at the free throw line with the shorter Holiday on him. The second time around, it was all hustle. First from Kyle Lowry, taking the ball away from Giannis who was looking to call a timeout. Then from Bam Adebayo getting on the floor and Jimmy helping, getting an easy dunk all alone to give Miami the lead.
The Heat involved Lowry on many actions with Butler to finish the game. The idea behind it was simple: either the Bucks would switch and Jimmy would get a path to the basket with a foul-ridden Middleton or a smaller Holiday, or the primary defender would try to stay with Butler and give him just enough space to pull up. The Bucks used both, trying to pin Jrue on the Heat star and he took care of that. The third play is just a heat check, again over Holiday, from a player who was getting any shot he wanted.
The Kaseya Center lived its first big night under its new name thanks to a heroic effort from Jimmy Butler. The Heat still need to close out the Bucks, in what would be one of the greatest upset victories in franchise history.
But last night feels like an isolated moment that will be talked about for years however this series finishes. Because what Jimmy did, and how he did it, was nothing short of legendary.