The game? Arguably never better. The hair? A work in progress.
In a typical season, Jimmy Butler might not be paying much attention to either at this stage of the calendar.
But this is not a typical season for the Miami Heat since Butler’s arrival in 2019, mired in an uphill battle for the playoffs.
So there’s been a familiar look to the game since the All-Star break, something closer to Playoff Jimmy.
“It’s not a real thing,” Butler said of the idea of Playoff Jimmy.
His postseason stats, barring his ragged first-round run of 2021 against the Milwaukee Bucks, say otherwise.
Just like what he’s done in the 11 games since the All-Star break: 26.1 points per game on . 603 shooting from the field. 851 shooting from the line, .
“It’s the epitome of efficiency,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, as the Heat shifted their focus to Wednesday night’s visiting Memphis Grizzlies, which ends the two-game run that began with their 119-115 victory in Monday night on the Utah Jazz.
“Players coming in should study Jimmy Butler. You don’t have to be a volume shooter. You don’t need to have the ball in your hands all the time to be able to impose your will offensively. He’s a very smart basketball player and he knows how to win games, especially when the games are competitive and close.”
Monday was another case of seizing a moment, a moment that Spoelstra offered comparison to none other than Dwyane Wade.
That’s when, with the Heat down two with 3:34 to play, Butler drained a 3-pointer ahead just eight seconds on the clock, while former Heat teammate Kelly Olynyk pulled back defensively.
“It’s a lot like Dwyane,” Spoelstra said. “Percentages go out the window. If you’re going to give him an open shot to kill, these guys are killers. They will make you pay for it. And this has nothing to do with percentages. This has to do with competitive will.
“We don’t do this very often, but when he takes that shot, he feels like he can compete against our stickers when we’re doing shooting drills.”
Yes, it was Butler having a moment, but not necessarily his favorite moment.
“He tells me to shoot three more,” Butler said of Spoelstra. “But I feel if I start shooting too many threes then there won’t be enough paint attacks. I can shoot three more; I don’t want.
“I want to play bully ball. I want to run there, find people. I like a physical game. But every now and then I take it and make three.”
The variety and nuances of Butler’s game were essentially what kept the Heat afloat during this 5-6 run since the All-Star break, with Bam Adebayo slightly offside, Tyler Herro rising and falling with his kick and Kyle Lowry working back from a month-long injury layoff due to knee pain.
“He’s the anchor,” said striker Caleb Martin. “He’s holding it for us. He put us in a position to win night after night. I just think with what he brings and how he plays, he’s always going to give us the opportunity to be in a position to win games.”
All while trying to maintain a unique Butler look.
Last week was another attempt at crimped braids. At the start of Monday night’s game, there were two tufts of hair extended upwards in pigtails. In the end, it was shaggy hair, something akin to the after effects of a wind tunnel.
“Dude,” Butler said during the hairstyling portion of his post-game media session. “My Alo accounts went out the other day. I was sick of it. So I just said, I’m going to let my hair down as a whole. Armando [Rivas, his personal trainer] bought me a comb so that definitely helped.
“But I wanted to take it down before the game because my head was itching. So I just let my hair down.
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