Inside Jimmy Butler's recent postseason struggles
Will the real Jimmy Butler please stand up?
After a pair of dominant showings in the opening two rounds of this year's NBA playoffs, Butler was the recipient of high praise across the NBA landscape. Many went as far as saying that Butler was the best player remaining in the postseason following his 41-point performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
But following three straight poor showings, including an abysmal 4-of-18 shooting performance in Miami's 93-80 loss to Boston on Wednesday night, the perception of Butler has drastically changed.
While Butler's teammates and staff likely won't take it that far with two (potential) games remaining in the Heat's season, they're certainly going to need more from their star guard if they're going to pull off consecutive wins and book a trip to the NBA Finals.
Butler's shooting performance in Game 5 was abysmal not only by his standards, but for any NBA wing.
In addition to going 4-of-18 from the floor, Butler was also 1-of-5 from deep and finished the affair with a -15 plus/minus metric. He sunk as many free throws as he did field goals, going a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe, to total 13 points. But even his FT numbers represented a stark aberration from his normal output.
After shooting 18 free throws in Game 1 of the series, Butler has attempted just six combined free throws in his last three outings, totaling 14 through Games 2-5. He's also undergone huge slides in +/-, dipping to a combined -52 in his last four games after finishing at +25 in Game 1. He has scored 27 total points in Games 3-5 after dropping 41 in Game 1, and 29 in Game 2.
Game 5 was Butler's third straight contest with less than five field goals (he'd never done so in the postseason before) and second straight with a sub-25% mark from the floor.
Butler's lack of production is one of several issues for the Heat, who failed to take advantage of a poor showing from Boston in the opening half of Game 5.
"The Celtics stunk for two and a half quarters," Bayless said. "This was as embarrassing an NBA playoff game as I've ever witnessed. The NBA should be ashamed.
"The Celtics were begging the Heat ‘please just go take this game.’ Miami's 38 missed 3s in the second-most missed shots in the history of the NBA playoffs. The team that shot 38% from 3 in the regular season did that in its biggest game of the year! This was an all-time abomination. They shot 1-of-14 in the third quarter. It has to rank as the worst third quarter in NBA history."
As Bayless said, Butler was far from the only Heat player who struggled Wednesday night.
Miami became just the second team in league history to shoot less than 20% from deep while taking 45 3s since the 3-point line was established. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry and Max Strus went a combined 0-15 from the floor, the worst shooting slide for a starting backcourt in playoff history.
Game 5 also marked the first time in Heat playoff history they shot below 32% from the field on at least 90 attempts, while converting less than 20% of their 3s. The team also recorded postseason lows in assists (14), 3-point percentage (15.6) and offensive rating (89.9).
In Shannon Sharpe's opinion, Miami is not a stellar scoring team, period.
Nick Wright went one step further, referring to this Heat team as "broken."
"I don't know [what happened to Jimmy Butler]," Wright said on "First Things First."
"I know he's hurt, but I don't think the injury was amputation. I'm not certain how we can explain these splits: First 13 games of the playoffs, Butler was banging down the door at ‘Club Superstar,' last three games, he's taking out the garbage because he's been added to the custodial staff. But the Heat backcourt will pick him up, right? Oh boy. They're 1-for-28 in the last two games!"
Chris Broussard doubled down on his "Celtics in 6" prediction.
"There's levels to this," Broussard said. "The Heat are just worn down. Butler's knees have to be bothering him. Tyler Herro is out. They just can't score. They've averaged 81 points per game in the last two. It's over."
It's going to take a mammoth-sized turnaround for Miami to turn the tide in this series, and with an away affair approaching Friday, the team is facing its most difficult challenge yet.