Jimmy Butler, Heat keep calm as Celtics dominate Game 5 of East finals
Nick FriedellESPN Staff Writer May 26, 2023, 12:31 AM ET4 Minutes Read
Butler confident Heat will win Game 6 Jimmy Butler preaches positivity and confidence after Heat drops Game 5 to Celtics.
BOSTON — Jimmy Butler still believes the Miami Heat will close out the Boston Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals despite two straight losses that have cut their lead to 3-2.
After a 110-97 loss in Game 5 on Thursday night inside a raucous TD Garden, the Heat have lost by a combined 30 points in their last two potential shutout games. So why is Butler, who strolled outside the locker room calmly eating popcorn after the game, still so confident about his team’s chances?
“Because the last two games are not who we are,” he said. “It just happened that way. We stopped playing defense halfway through because we didn’t make the shots we want to make. But that’s easily fixable. You just have to come out and play harder off the bounce. Like I always say, It’s going to be all smiles and we’re going to keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing we’re going to win the next game.”
For one of the first times in his torrid postseason run, Butler fell short of the high standard he’s set for himself over the past month, scoring 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field as the Celtics dominated. from beginning to end.
“Our offense was a little disjointed,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t able to get our offense going, get the ball where we needed to get to spots where you could operate. If we can get Jimmy into his comfort zones and strength zones more consistently, he’ll be fine.”
That was the feeling throughout the Heat locker room that wasn’t panicking, despite the fact that the No. 2 Celtics are playing with a renewed sense of confidence on both ends of the floor.
“I think just feed him a steady diet and we know he’ll find it,” Heat big man Kevin Love said of Butler. “Just based on who he is, based on the numbers, we have no doubt in Game 6 he’s going to come out and be Jimmy Butler.”
The composure Butler showed after the Heat’s last two losses seemed to carry over throughout the locker room, where his teammates expressed confidence they’ll still be able to find their way, especially if guard Gabe Vincent, who missed game 5 due to a left sprain. ankle, is able to return in Game 6.
“Why would we lose faith?” heat center Bam Adebayo said. “When we started this journey, nobody believed in us. Everybody thought we were going to get out in the first round. Everybody thought we were going to get out in the second round. And now we’re here one game away. For us, we’ve had always trust and this will not go away”.
Spoelstra didn’t buy into the idea that his team would suffer an emotional setback.
“Who cares about mood?” Spoelstra said. “We have a weird group. I think a lot of that is overrated. It’s a competitive series. You always expect things to be challenging in the conference finals. One game doesn’t carry over to the next game. Based on all the experience that we’ve had, it doesn’t matter in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if you lose by whatever.
“We beat them with everything in Game 3. It just doesn’t matter. It’s about collective preparation and putting together a great game. We’ll play a lot better on Saturday. That’s all we have to focus on right now .”
So will Saturday night’s Game 6 in Miami feel like a Game 7?
“No, it feels like a Game 6,” Love said with a laugh. “But they’re a hungry team. And going down 3-0 and getting a win at home and then getting a win here, you can tell they’re fighting for everything, they’re looking for everything, and now to both teams will be feeling it so we’ve got to go out and have a great performance and set the tone at home.”
And the key to doing that Saturday night will be Butler moving quickly after being held in relative control in Games 4 and 5.
“We just have to play better,” Butler said. “Let’s start the game better, in the beginning, make it more difficult for them. They are in a rhythm since the beginning of the game. But we will always stay positive, knowing that we can and will win this series. We’ll just have to shut him down at home.”