3 Crucial stats that will determine if the Heat win or lose

Jun 4, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and center Bam Adebayo (13) talk
Jun 4, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and center Bam Adebayo (13) talk / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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Jimmy Butler getting to the line

Jimmy Butler
Detroit Pistons v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

The Heat have a dilemma when it comes to Jimmy Butler. His playoff bona fides cannot be questioned, but his regular-season performance is generally much less inspired. 

Nobody doubts that Butler is a superstar, but he is a Playoff Superstar, not a Regular-Season Superstar. 

Butler’s stats in the playoffs last year were Michael Jordan-like. His stats during this regular season? Closer to Brandon Ingram.

Butler: 21.6 PPG, 5.5 REB, 4.8 AST
Ingram: 21.3 PPG, 5.1 REB, 5.8 AST

In that context, it’s easy to see why the Heat are constantly battling in the lower rungs of the standings than at the top with the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. 

When Butler does decide to flip the switch, the Heat look every bit of a contender. There are many ways to tell when Playoff Jimmy is engaged – his pace, usage and scoring numbers all go up. But one of the best markers is his free throws.

Butler was getting to the line 9.9 times per game during the 11-3 stretch. Over this four-game skid? 4.

Because of their low 3-point attempt and transition scoring rate, the Heat rely on free throws as much as any team in the league to get extra points. 

The Heat are 11-0 when Butler takes 11 or more free throws and 16-6 when he attempts at least nine. As a team, the Heat are 19-8 in games when they take 24 or more free-throw attempts and 16-22 when they take fewer than 24. It all starts with Butler.

A lot has been made about league officials calling fewer fouls since the All-Star break, but that doesn’t account for slicing Butler’s rate by more than half. That’s mostly on Jimmy.

“Go to score, not necessarily to draw fouls,” Spoelstra said when asked about Butler adjusting to how officials are calling fouls. “Jimmy has a rugged game, so he’s not drawing fouls. He’s going to wherever the contact may be.

“From my vantage point, it looks like some of those are fouls,” Spoelstra continued. “Certainly in the last three, four games, that those are typically fouls. But that’s not why we’re losing games.”