Everything starts with Heat’s Fil-Am coach Erik Spoelstra, who’s just a few wins away from validating himself as the best coach in the NBA. NBA NBAPlayoffs WholeNewGame
Everything starts with Heat’s Fil-Am coach Erik Spoelstra, who’s just a few wins away from validating himself as the best coach in the NBA
Their opponents, the Boston Celtics, entered the series as favorites, expected to play half the role in returning the NBA’s most glorious rivalry: purple and gold vs green and white.But Miami, the No. 5 seed, is playing the role of spoiler – and unapologetically at that.
Only a few outside of South Beach expected the modern-day Heatles to compete at this point of the playoffs, but those who have followed this team have been well-aware of the potential they held. (READ:)Jimmy Butler went to Miami for an early retirement under the sun, his critics argued.
Bam Adebayo was an All-Star familiar only to those who paid attention to the entire regular season.Goran Dragic was getting older. Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were afterthoughts. Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala weren’t good enough pick-ups to move the needle.
Things have changed quickly, haven’t they?Miami is now 10-1 in the NBA playoffs.It all starts with Erik Spoelstra, who is two wins away from validating himself as the best coach in the NBA.Spoelstra and Butler have been a perfect basketball marriage, and the mesh of their competitive personalities have reflected all the way down to the last man on this Heat roster.
While Spo had to work his way up from putting in the hours as a video coordinator to eventually replacing the great Pat Riley, Butler worked from being homeless to unranked to late draft pick to unappreciated superstar.That last bit is about to change.
How could Jimmy leave Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers when they were so close to the title, and claim his main goal is to win a championship?That was the question asked after free agency.The answer is now clear: because rather than seeing the Heat for what they were, Butler joined them for what they could be: a bunch of relentless “goons” who, not unlike his own personality, fear no one – a trait that comes in handy in the most pressure-packed situations.
Just ask the MVP and the Milwaukee Bucks, or Jayson Tatum and the Celtics.The reason why they have that confidence? Well, it helps to have a damn-good head coach to guide the way.“[Spo] trusts his players, everybody – and as much as he's commanding us on what to do, he's always asking, ‘What do you see?’” said Butler.
While Brad Stevens accelerated past the NBA coaching ranks after arriving in Boston, Spoelstra had to reinvent himself following the surprising departure of LeBron James, who wouldn’t be close to the player he is today had he not been under Spo’s tutelage and gone through the now popular #HeatCulture.
Want proof? LeBron in 4 years with the Heat: 4 finals appearances, two NBA titles; LeBron, the rest of his 17-year career: 5 finals appearances, one championship.In the Eastern Conference Finals, Spoelstra is currently winning the coaching battle against Stevens, who has found no answer to Miami’s 2-3 zone defense, which, ironically, is a staple in the Philippine hoops culture.
InGame 1, Boston went on top by 14 in the early goings in the 4th period, only to watch that lead disappear once the Heat applied pressure with length and speed through the zone.The knockout blows in overtime were a Butler score followed by an outstanding Bam Adebayo defensive play which Magic Johnson called the best block he had ever seen.
InGame 2, Kemba Walker finally broke out of his slump by taking advantage of Miami’s flaw – guard defense – and propelled the Celtics to a 17-point first half lead.What happened after? The Heat went to the zone in the 3rd quarter, and turned that deficit into a six-point lead.
At the end of the game, Butler wasn’t the scoring virtuoso many want him to be, but he instead won that game with a pair of incredible defensive sequences that personifies why he is not your ordinary type of superstar.And guess what? Spo wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are not going to sit up here and try to educate everybody on what winning basketball is,” the Fil-Am coach said in his post-game conference, in reference to a question asked by Rappler on Butler’s lack of high-scoring games.“That was winning basketball tonight from Jimmy Butler. It's not about the final line. Same thing with Bam the other night. I don't even know what Bam ended up from a scoring standpoint in Game 1 and I don't know what he ended up with tonight. Those guys impact winning and Jimmy did so many things in that second half that impacted winning on both ends of the floor.”
In an age of basketball where superstars are expected to make the hero-ball plays that lead to posters, Butler is a throwback workhorse who will do whatever it takes to win – even if it means quite a number of floor burns – and doesn’t mind having his teammates make the shots that lead to points on the board.
Butler is a top-tier star, although it’s his determination to still do the little things that make him unique. Just like his coach.It’s important to note that this series is far from over. A Boston fan can argue that the Celtics have played better than the Heat; that their lack of late-game composure and self-inflicted errors have led to this 0-2 hole.
Stevens is also still a terrific basketball mind, while the expected return of Gordon Hayward in Game 3 will be a valuable addition.That post-game locker room skirmish spells trouble, but could also very well catapult the Celtics to a higher level. Sometimes, confrontation reaps rewards. (READ:
Celtics feel the heat as tempers flare in locker room)The Heat, however, are halfway there to regaining control of the East, willing their way back to the top.“Somehow, some way, they know the guys are going to fit in here and to tell you the truth, to fit in here, you've just got to care about winning. That's the number one thing,” said Butler.
“Trying to win a championship. And we've got a group of guys that want that, night-in, night-out, every single day. There's only one goal in our mind, and that's to win it.” Read more: Rappler »
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