The Heat officially sealed a win against the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series when they took a 103-84 victory at TD Garden on Monday. Miami forward Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 28 points in 43 minutes, hitting 12 of his 28 shot attempts as he fought his way through Boston's defense for tries in the paint and contested looks on the wings and the right corner.
Miami's supporting cast played an essential role in keeping the Heat ahead of the Celtics for the crucial win. Forward Caleb Martin finished the night with 26 points and 10 rebounds in just under 45 minutes, while center Bam Adebayo scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished seven assists.
“I know what we're capable of,” Butler said, per ClutchPoints Twitter. “But nobody's satisfied. We haven't done anything, we don't play just to win the Eastern Conference.
“We play to win the whole thing.”
Miami will move on to face the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. The Nuggets are fresh off a sweep against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals behind the triple-double averaged by center Nikola Jokić and the 32.5 points per game during the series from guard Jamal Murray, according to Basketball Reference.
Butler won the Eastern Conference Finals MVP over Martin after the hard-fought seven-game series against Boston. Will he be able to continue the streak and win the 2023 NBA Finals MVP?
Who will end the 2023 NBA Finals with the series' MVP? And how will they be able to pave the path towards potentially winning the award?
The legend of “Playoff Jimmy” will need to continue if the Heat will make a lasting run in the NBA Finals.
Jimmy Butler has been nothing short of extraordinary throughout the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The six-time All-Star never looked back after he scored 31 points against his former team, the Chicago Bulls, during the Play-In tournament to save Miami's chances at a postseason run. He leads the Heat with 28.5 points per game in 17 playoff games on averages of 48.3% from the field and 35.6% from the 3-point line, according to ESPN.
“It's an amazing thing to watch,” Heat forward Kevin Love said earlier this month, via ESPN. “He leads us. He sets the tone for us every single night and it's just a beautiful thing to be a part of.”
Butler averaged 24.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.6 steals per game during the team's series against the Celtics, according to Basketball Reference. If he continues to be the star Miami needs, he will have more than a solid case for earning the series' MVP if the Heat find a way to bring home the Larry O'Brien trophy for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
A Leader for the Heat
Every playoff team needs at least a few players to rally behind when it matters the most.
Where Martin became an unsung hero for the Heat during the Conference Finals, Butler has become the team's undisputed leader as they continue to carve out a run to a potential NBA Championship. The Heat became the first eighth seed to ever reach the conference finals in 24 years under Butler's guidance, defeating the New York Knicks in six games before moving on to face Boston behind Butler's 24.6 points per game in five games.
Butler hasn't just led by example for Miami during the 2023 NBA playoffs and beyond, as detailed by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
“Jimmy,” Spoelstra said, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “leads with everything — his spirit, his soul, his competitive nature. It's all out there on his sleeves. That's what we love about him.
“I mentioned to him, when I first met him, and then in the subsequent years after that, he never has to apologize, ever, for who he is and what he is about. It's the same language as us, and that's why we're all following him.”
Butler's leadership would make him the perfect candidate for the award if he continues to perform at a high level and secure a win over Denver in the NBA Finals.
A Perfect Ending to a Storybook Series
A fantastic underdog story in the NBA Playoffs will need the perfect ending.
The Heat have surpassed insurmountable odds to get to the 2023 NBA Finals. ESPN Analytics gave Miami a 3% chance of reaching the NBA Finals in May. They had to defeat the Bulls for the eighth seed after losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the Play-In tournament. Miami started its season with a 2-5 record after a loss to the Sacramento Kings in October.
The Heat had to fight back after the Celtics returned from a 3-0 deficit to secure their ticket to the NBA Finals.
“Sometimes you have to suffer for the things that you really want,” Spoelstra said, via the Associated Press. “This group has shown fortitude, when there are inevitable letdowns and failures, to have that perseverance to pick yourself up, to have that collective spirit to keep on forging ahead until you get to accomplish what you want to.”
Having Butler, a player who has already won the Eastern Conference Finals MVP and stepped up during the playoffs, will be the perfect way to wrap up an underdog story featuring a Heat team with a culture built off of “discipline, accountability, work ethic and enjoying somebody else's success,” according to a 2021 article from GQ Sports.