Jimmy’s Masterpiece

I awoke this morning still on an all-time high! It’s not every day you get to see an artist compose a masterpiece in real time in the presence of 20,000 screaming fans. It’s not often that we have the pleasure of observing a composer write a live symphony while we all watch along with bated breath waiting for the climactic crescendo. Yet, that is what Jimmy Butler III graced us with during Monday night’s historical playoff performance in game 4 against the Bucks. We were all witnesses to a true tour de force by a man who entered the NBA with no prospects of becoming the dominant postseason player that he is today. Jimmy “freaking” Butler is definitely him. Call him “Himmy Butler,” CEO of Big Face Coffee and master chef who cooks any defender that you put on him from now on. He’s a top 2 player in the league so far in these playoffs and he ain’t number 2. Monday night Jimmy Butler became Jimmy de Tomball, the artist; and he delivered a masterful performance to elevate his team to victory.


However, this was not a plain and unfinished masterpiece like da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” This was a masterpiece delivered under the most adverse circumstances. This was Jim Lovell telling Houston that they had a problem and then piloting the LM like a sci-fi starship back to safety on Earth. This was Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” being blasted on speakers all across Europe as the Germans encircled the Brits in Dunkirk only for them to make a great escape in an army of small boats across the English Channel. This was Captain Sully landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson without one casualty after a bird strike took out the engine. This was Episode I’s “Duel of Fates.” This was Jay Z’s “The Blueprint” bringing comfort to us all on its untimely release date on 09/11. This was Michael Jackson’s jazzy and rock infused “Thriller” album taking our collective breaths away the moment we all heard it. This was the script of “Forrest Gump.” This was Lin-Manuel Miranda humanizing Aaron Burr in “Wait For It.” This was that feeling you had when you walked out of the theater after seeing Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” for the first time. This was Martin Luther King sampling Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” in his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. This was Watson and Crick discovering the double helix while braving damaging x-rays. This was Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson discovering new proofs for the Pythagorean Theorem after it was believed for 2000 plus years that there were no more proofs to be found. This was the album cover of “Abbey Road.” This was Jimmy Butler pulling a rough diamond out of the mud at his rugged finest.


We are watching the legendary career of a habitual all-star that is becoming an all-time great. Playoff Jimmy is a special sight to behold, and no one can legitimately claim that he is a bubble fluke anymore. Monday night the Bucks had their backs against the wall in a must win game and their MVP candidate was back in the starting lineup to save the day. It seemed as if the #1 seed from Milwaukee was back to reassert their dominance in the opening salvo of the game. The Heat had a game plan of going to Bam Adebayo early and often to set the tone that this game was going to be won via a mixed martial arts match in the paint. It didn’t start off so well as Bam, who is nursing a nagging hamstring injury, turned the ball over and couldn’t generate power to go up strong and dunk it with both hands after having a clear runway to the cup.

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) drives to the basket over Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the second half of Game 4 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, April 24, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)


The Bucks were having everything go their way. Giannis was attacking the lane with impunity. Playing with force and physicality. They were blocking our shots and forcing us to take bad 3s, meanwhile the Milwaukee snipers were sniping like Simo Hayha. Brook Lopez went back into his all-star bag and was making every shot and grabbing every rebound. Before we knew it, the Heat were in a 10-point hole and Coach Spoelstra had to call a timeout to rally the troops. Then Jimmy decided to power up like the protagonist in a Japanese anime who had a latent superpower that he could only draw out when the situation was dire and the competition was fierce. Monday night was that situation. We needed Jimmy to unleash the superpowers that he had built up while training during a prolonged time skip in the story.


Jimmy Butler’s usage rate in the first quarter was off the charts as he played the entire first quarter and poured in 22 points with his exhaustive efforts to keep his team afloat during the intense opening rounds of the grudge match. Towards the end of the 1st quarter Jimmy had to lay on his back for a while after being fouled to catch his breath. Those first 12 minutes had to feel like 48 to him as he had to carry his whole team through that rough patch. His shoulders were broad enough to bear the load.


Jimmy Buckets got some rest in the 2nd quarter, but the Heat were able to hang around thanks to some improved defensive coverage on Giannis and great three-point shooting by Duncan Robinson. The Bucks remember Duncan well from prior playoff battles and they legitimately had a good game plan to deny him from getting up a huge volume of shots. It’s part of the reason why Jimmy has had so much room to attack in his danger zones throughout this series. The Duncan gravity effect is back and that gravity field will definitely continue to stay as a factor with him shooting 13 of 17 from the land of milk and honey. Normally, the Bucks play drop coverage no matter what, but when Duncan is out there, they stay glued to him on pin downs, pick and rolls, pick and pops, and dribble handoffs. The Bucks are committed to not letting Duncan get off like he did against them on his 29th birthday, but that means that there will be space for Jimmy to do work in the mid-range and painted area.

Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson (55) attempts a 3-pointer during the second half of Game 3 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Heat were down by 13 nearly halfway through the fourth quarter and every time they made a run, the Bucks had an answer. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Then Jimmy Butler came back in the game and Mr. Clutch went to work. In the final six minutes of the game the Miami Heat scored 30 points, only missed one shot from the field, and only missed one free throw with Jimmy Butler pouring in 21 of his 56 points in the 4th quarter. It was a 32 point 2nd half marvelous display of a will to win in the face of defeatist odds. Jimmy Butler is now tied for the 4th most points all-time in NBA playoff history. Only Jordan, Baylor, and Mitchell have scored more. Jimmy also has the Heat franchise record now, surpassing both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on his way to the top of the list. Not to mention that Jimmy is already tied with Dwyane Wade as the Heat’s all-time leader in 40 point playoff games with 7 and is the only 50 point scorer in Miami Heat playoff history.


The Bucks reverted to a tactic that they used in the 2021 playoffs against the Heat that was quite effective. They put size on Jimmy Butler by having Giannis and Lopez spell Jrue Holiday who had his hands full with Butler all shift. The Bucks tried guarding Butler with their giant front court players. Jimmy cooked both Lopez and Giannis with his footwork. They tried Middleton on him; Jimmy cooked him as well and fouled him out. Jrue Holiday was barbecue chicken all night and he didn’t know where Jimmy’s next shot was coming from because Butler was doing a great job of mixing in paint attacks with mid-range pull ups and step back threes. He incorporated spin moves, step throughs, pump fakes, and fadeaway jumpers while finishing at an elite clip and getting to the free throw line. It is safe to say that Jimmy and Spo were ready with a bunch of counters for whatever the Bucks threw at them. The Bucks will have their work cut out for them to figure out how to slow down Jimmy Butler because double teaming him or playing a box in one zone for 48 minutes will allow Miami’s 50% three-point shooters lots of space to punish them from deep.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) aims a three-point-shot as Milwaukee Bucks guard Grayson Allen (12) defends during the second half of Game 4 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, April 24, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The Heat are slept on by most national media pundits every year and let’s face it this season they earned being slept on, but it seems like they are waking up at the right time. The Heat don’t have a sexy superstar that everyone adores and they have a roster full of undrafted castaways and two late lottery picks from the middle of the first round. I was definitely pessimistic about our outlook in the playoffs this season considering how poor of a regular season we had.  It seemed like we were destined for another quick first round exit like we had in the 2021 playoffs after the bubble. Who could have anticipated that like a light switch this team could instantly elevate its level? Going from the bottom of the association in terms of offensive rating and offensive efficiency to the number one offensively rated team per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Going from one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the regular season to the best three-point shooting team in the postseason, and they are doing this without Tyler Herro against a top five rated Milwaukee Bucks defense that many believe is the best in the NBA. This dramatic improvement and regression to last season’s offense has been nothing short of stunning and is beyond impressive.


I rewatched the game last night and I noticed the audacity of Caleb Martin to look up and see Giannis guarding him and then immediately demanding the ball from Jimmy Butler. The amazing acquiescence of Jimmy to oblige with the one hand pass in the middle of his one-man scoring run. The daring deliverance of “Twin” to rise and drain the almost three right in the face of Giannis as the shot clock got low. The boisterous bravado of the “Hannibal” mask celebration as Caleb ran down the court covering his face with his hand letting Giannis know that he was totally unbothered by not being able to see the rim when he shot the ball. The eruption of the arena like an irritated volcano that lay dormant for too long during the pressure-filled rocky season filled with peaks and valleys; but all the while had been slowly simmering and heating up since the all-star intermission. Magical stuff. The Kaseya Center crowd was hysterical. No one was sitting and the building was loud and rocking. It was at that point that Giannis realized the Heat were unafraid of their #1 overall seed status. It was at that point that he had to know he wasn’t futilely fighting a tidal wave of momentum, but his struggle was against an ocean of Heat history and culture. No one fights the ocean and wins. That had to be a crushing realization for Giannis.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) dunks the ball during the second half of Game 4 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Monday, April 24, 2023, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bucks 119-114. Jimmy Buttler scored 56 points. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

So now here we are. The unlikely underdog punching above its weight, leading the former champs by 3 games to 1. While we are pleasantly surprised and should take the time to enjoy the historic 56-point performance on a ridiculously efficient 28 shot attempts making Jimmy Butler the only player to score 56 points on less than 30 attempts, we also have to keep in perspective that the job is not done. Close out games are usually the hardest. Closing out a former champion and hated rivalry on their home court, almost impossible to pull off. The Heat have to be ready for the fight of their lives. Statistically teams who are up 3-1 in an NBA series win 95% of the time. But the Heat aren’t playing against statistics and most of the country believes the Bucks are quintessentially that 5% type of team. Giannis has pride and he won’t want to lose to the team he once called his “food” and accused of being bubble frauds. We will need to support our team to the fullest so they feel us up in Wisconsin or back here in Miami should there be a need for a game 6. But first things first, game 5 on Wednesday night in Milwaukee. Be there. Maybe, just maybe- we will be blessed with another Jimmy de Tomball masterpiece.

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