The Miami Heat have made surprising people and surpassing expectations a habit over the last few years, and it has continued in this year’s NBA Playoffs.
They upset the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, and now they have taken a 3-1 series lead over the New York Knicks with a 109-101 win on Monday. As usual, Jimmy Butler led the way in terms of scoring, but he doesn’t mind being double-teamed, and he said it’s because it frees up one of his teammates.
“I actually love being double teamed. That means one of my teammates are open.”
— Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) May 9, 2023
As was the case in their previous two wins in this series, the Heat outhustled New York and did the little things better — defend effectively, rotate to open shooters, get big offensive rebounds and move the ball on offense.
The Knicks made a couple of pushes to come close, but there was always a feeling that Miami was in control, and one reason why was Butler.
Although he didn’t have a huge fourth quarter, he applied pressure at key points of the game, and he not only scored 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, but he also had 10 assists, to go along with six rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals.
Butler is often a team player to a fault, but he turns it up in crunch time and the playoffs, going from a mere All-Star to Jimmy Buckets. Coming into this contest he had been averaging 34.4 points a game in the playoffs, although he hasn’t had a big offensive game yet in this series.
Bam Adebayo had 23 points and 13 rebounds, Max Strus contributed 16 points and Kyle Lowry showed spark with 15 efficient points off the bench for the Heat.
The one thing the Knicks can look to for encouragement is the fact that Game 5 will be back at Madison Square Garden before their raucous fans. However, they will need to play a lot harder and smarter to have any chance of pulling out three straight wins to take the series.