Heat star Jimmy Butler 'senses' the moment, delivers with another huge playoff performance | Opinion

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And now, for his next magnificent performance, Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler ... well, what does Jimmy Butler do next? Make the Boston Celtics vanish on abracadabra? He sort of did that by himself on Tuesday.

Butler once again did plenty of everything, leading the Heat to a 118-107 victory against the Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Butler had 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks in another magical playoff performance.

His postseason play has conjured memories of "Bubble Jimmy" from two seasons ago. Whether in the bubble or a normal playoff season, Butler brings a different level of mental and physical fire.

GAME 1 TAKEAWAYS: Butler goes off, Heat dominate third quarter

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"He’s competing to win. He does that as well as anybody in this league," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, later adding, "If you’re driven by competition, the stakes get raised. It’s not about trying to get big numbers. It’s about doing what’s required. It’s a high level of competition. Jimmy senses it. He knows it. He feels it."

Butler came into the conference finals averaging more points, rebounds and steals and shooting better from the field and 3-point range in the playoffs than he did during the regular season. That’s tough to do when every possession is more challenging in a series.

Butler has more games (four) with 36 or more points in the playoffs than he did in the regular season (three). And his 41-point performance Tuesday is the second-highest scoring playoff game of his career.

Butler doesn’t care.

"I don’t do this to score 40 points. I play the way that I play to win by all means necessary," he said. "It just so happened that I scored 40. If I score 40 and lose, I’m going to be really pissed off."

No player in NBA history has had a stat line that matched or topped Butler’s points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

"I don’t care if it’s a big stage, little stage or who’s watching," he said. "I do what I do for my family, for my people, for my organization, for my teammates. That’s it."

Butler has established himself as one of the game’s premier no-nonsense players.

He dominated the game in so many ways. In the Heat’s massive 39-14 third quarter in which they eliminated a 62-54 deficit and flipped it into a 93-76 lead, Butler scored 17 of his 27 second-half points. He also had three steals, leading to six points. Two of those steals were on back-to-back possessions, making the Celtics look apathetic about protecting the basketball.

"Every time and pocket in the game, when we needed to control the game or get the right shot or make the right decision, Jimmy had his fingerprints on that," Spoelstra said. "You’re seeing great two-way basketball from him."

Jimmy Butler notched his fifth career 40-point playoff game and third this year.
Jimmy Butler notched his fifth career 40-point playoff game and third this year.

Butler also had an efficient game, needing just 19 shots to reached 41 points. He went to the free throw line 18 times and made 17. Time and time again, Celtics players bit on his pump fake and fouled him.

"I like physicality," Butler said. "I want to run into people and see who falls down first, who’s going go quit first. That’s a style of basketball I like to play. And so do they."

Spoelstra once said Butler and the Heat organization were meant to be together. It’s not always perfect. Both sides realize that, but there’s enough stability within the franchise and enough big-picture understanding on Butler’s end to get past minor differences.

They understand the end game.

"As long as I keep working," Butler said, "I think I can help us win three more games in this series and hopefully four more after this one."

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jimmy Butler goes off as Heat beat Celtics in NBA playoffs win

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