J.J. Redick sends warning to Eastern Conference: ‘Playoff Jimmy is coming’

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Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA regular season is winding down, and the Miami Heat are turning it up a notch, with J.J. Redick putting out a warning that Jimmy Butler is starting his transformation into his postseason self.

Butler has developed a reputation as one of the best playoff performers of his generation, having helped the Heat reach the NBA Finals last season and in 2020. Miami also has reached the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the past four seasons.

Though they have yet to accomplish the ultimate goal of winning an NBA championship with Butler, the Heat always are perceived as a dangerous team come playoff time thanks largely to him.

For example, last season, they emerged from the play-in round to upset the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs in just five games. The Heat then eliminated the New York Knicks before hanging on to knock off the second-seeded Boston Celtics to advance to the 2023 NBA Finals. The dream ended there with a five-game loss to the Denver Nuggets.

This season, the Heat got off to a rough start, and a seven-game losing streak in late January pushed them back down toward the .500 mark. However, since then, they have won 11 of their past 14 games, including five of six since returning from the All-Star break.

After missing the three games immediately prior to the break, Butler has come storming back. In the five games he has played since then, he is averaging 25.8 points per contest, taking more than 10 free throws per game and shooting 53.8 percent from 3-point range.

In the 37 games he was able to play before the break, he averaged 21.4 points per contest, took about eight free throws per game and shot 44.0 percent from 3-point territory.

Miami is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, just slightly behind the Orlando Magic and Knicks in a very tight race for playoff positioning. Thanks to this latest surge, the Heat will take a 35-26 record into their game against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

With just 21 games remaining and a little more than a month left to go in the regular season, Butler is definitely tuning up for what he hopes will be another long playoff run for the Heat that this time ends with an elusive championship.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.