Jimmy Butler became only the third Miami Heat player to have three 40-point playoff games with a big performance in Tuesday’s Game 2 win against the Atlanta Hawks.
The six-time All-Star finished with 45 in a 115-105 win to give the Heat a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.
Only LeBron James (also three) and Dwyane Wade (seven) have previously had as many 40-point games for the Heat in the postseason as Butler.
Indeed, only James (26.9) and Wade (22.6) have averaged more points per game for the Heat in the postseason than Butler (21.9).
And coach Erik Spoelstra, who led a Heat team containing James and Wade to titles in 2012 and 2013, considers Butler worthy of comparison to the latter.
“It actually is a good comparison,” Spoelstra said. “If you get in those pressure moments and the moments of truth, if you’re on the other side, would you ever want to just give Dwyane Wade an open three?
“You would not, because he’s a killer. He’s going to seize that moment.
“And Jimmy has a lot of those same qualities. You can say whatever the percentage is – throw those all out when it becomes about winning. He’ll find a way to kill you.”
Butler’s latest display was unlike anything previously seen by a Heat player, though.
At the start of the week, no player had finished with 40-plus points, five-plus rebounds, five-plus assists, no turnovers and no fouls in a playoff game since turnovers became an official statistic in 1977-78.
Butler became the second player to achieve such a stat line in two days, following in the footsteps of breakout Dallas Mavericks star Jalen Brunson.
The two previous 40-point playoff games from Butler had come in the 2020 run to the NBA Finals, which played out in the ‘bubble’ in Orlando.
But Butler, now paired with point guard Kyle Lowry, feels he is “a different player” in 2022.
“I am a different player now than I was then,” he said. “I just always want to play basketball the right way and do whatever it takes to help this team, this organisation win. That’s why they brought me here.
“I’m not as ball-dominant as I was in the bubble. We’ve got a point guard, and that’s Kyle, and I love him being a point guard.
“I just get to go out there and try to score. And if I can’t score, pass the ball. We’re a different team; I’m a different player.”