Jimmy Butler makes bold declaration that should excite Heat fans after scuffle in New Orleans

A motivated Jimmy Butler is good news for the Miami Heat, and bad news for the rest of the league.

Feb 23, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and New Orleans
Feb 23, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and New Orleans / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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On the morning following a melee that led to the ejection of Jimmy Butler and three others, the Miami Heat star took to Instagram for a declaration.

“It’s that time,” Butler wrote on an Instagram post that included pictures of the scuffle that broke out in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s 106-95 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans Friday night.

For a full play-by-play of what went down, read our recap of the game here.

But the TL;DR version is that after Kevin Love fouled Zion Williamson on a layup attempt, Pelicans forward Naji Marshall came to help his teammate and pushed Love out of the way. Butler shoved Marshall back and his hand slipped from Marshall’s chest to his neck, and Marshall retaliated by putting his hand on Butler’s neck. Butler charged at Marshall and both benches cleared.

After order was restored, Butler and Marshall were ejected from the game along with Heat center Thomas Bryant and Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado, who came to blows after the benches cleared.

“I put my hand around his neck, he put his hand around my neck and it took off the way it did,” Butler said after the game. “I don’t think I should have got thrown out of that game.”

Butler tallied 23 points on 7 for 12 shooting, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in his 27 minutes before the ejection. It continues a run of strong two-way play from the Heat star. Over his last eight games, Butler is averaging 24.1 points on 56.5% shooting, 8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.1 steals.

The Heat will host the Pelicans at Kaseya Center on March 22, an otherwise unremarkable game that will now be circled on both team’s calendars.

“We’re just the better team,” Butler said. “I think that when we get them on our home court, it’s going to be a different game. I hope they’re healthy and it’s going to be the same outcome.” 

The Heat have won seven of their last nine games. Even with Terry Rozier (knee sprain) and Josh Richardson (dislocated shoulder) still recovering from injuries, players and coaches speak highly of how the team is playing. 

(Tyler Herro left the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury but said he avoided a serious injury and is traveling with the team for Monday’s game in Sacramento – a good sign.)

“I think our team is so ready for anything that anybody’s throwing at us,” Butler said as the Heat look to climb the East standings over the season’s final stretch. “We’re so together, playing some incredible basketball. I don’t think it matters who we go up against right now."

The Heat, at 31-25 and seventh in the East, need Butler playing at this level to climb the East standings, avoid the play-in tournament and make a run at making a third NBA Finals in five seasons. 

During Butler’s tenure, high-emotion flare-ups have often sparked the best runs of the season. 

Not long after Butler and coach Erik Spoelstra nearly came to blows in a March, 2022, home game against the Warriors, the Heat went on a six-game win streak to close the season and earn the No. 1 seed.

Butler has also routinely ramped up his game and intensity after the All-Star break. A motivated Butler is good news for the Heat. Bad news for their opponents.

“It’s that time of the year," Butler said."

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