Miami Heat’s star forward, Jimmy Butler, led the team to a hard-fought 111-105 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night. Throughout his life, Butler has had to overcome people who have slighted him, making it no surprise that he made forward Grant Williams pay for talking trash to him during the pivotal sequence of the game.
After Williams drained a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 96-87 lead with 6:37 left, Butler hit his next shot and got fouled by Williams for a three-point play. After the basket, Butler got head-to-head with Williams as they exchanged words and were each assessed a technical foul. From that point, the Heat closed the game on a 24-9 run and left Boston with a stunning 2-0 lead in the series.
Butler admitted that the exchange with Williams got him rolling down the stretch. He said, “But that’s just competition at its finest. He hit a big shot, started talking to me. I like that. I’m all for that. It makes me key in a lot more. It pushes that will that I have to win a lot more. It makes me smile. It does. When people talk to me, I’m like, OK, I know I’m a decent player if you want to talk to me out of everybody that you can talk to. But it’s just competition. I do respect him, though. He’s a big part of what they try to do. He switches. He can shoot the ball. I just don’t know if I’m the best person to talk to.”
Butler scored nine of his team-high 27 points following Williams’ initial words, once again proving why he has been arguably the best player in the postseason. After the game, his teammates were surprised that Williams pushed their star player to that point, but they were glad he did.
Heat guard Caleb Martin said, “Knowing Jimmy, at that point in the game, you get him going, we’ll take mad Jimmy any time. I knew that you could kind of see it in his eyes that he was ready to go after that.”
Williams defended his response to Butler, noting he wasn’t going to back down from anybody on the floor. He said, “I’m a competitor and I’m gonna battle. He got the best of me tonight, and at the end of the day it’s out of respect, because I’m not gonna run away from it. My mom always taught me, and my dad as well, you get your ass kicked and you don’t come back home until you come battle again. You either come back before you die or you come back and get a win, and I’m not willing to die in this finals. I’m ready to f—ing get a win. I’m ready to come back and come into Game 3 with a better mentality, and I know this team is as well.”
Heat’s Mantra: No Matter the Challenge, Find a Way to Win
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra shrugged off the showdown between Butler and Williams, saying, “Look, I love that gnarly version of Jimmy, but you get that regardless. I just think people now are paying a lot more attention to him now that we’ve won some games in the postseason the last few years. Jimmy is just a real competitor.”
Aside from the moment with Williams, what Butler and Spoelstra agree on is a mantra that has defined the No. 8-seeded Heat’s run through the postseason — no matter what challenges they face, the group always feels like it will find a way to win.
“We see it every day in practice,” Butler said. “On off-days, guys are constantly working on their game. Guys are constantly studying film. Guys just want to win. At the end of the day, that’s all anybody wants on this roster. If you ask them to do something, as long as it’s for winning, they are going to do it. Nobody on this roster is dumb. So they can tell whenever it’s about winning and whenever you’re telling them something, because the end goal is winning.”
Spoelstra echoed a similar sentiment, saying, “Feels like this has just been our existence all year long. I guess nobody is really paying attention. But we’re in — every single game, it felt like for weeks on end, every game was ending on the last-second shot, whether we’re shooting it or the other team is shooting it. So you develop some grit from that. Whether that turns into confidence or not, sometimes you don’t have the confidence. But at least you have that experience of going through stuff and you understand how tough it is.”
The Heat will enter Game 3 with a 2-0 lead in the series against the Celtics.