MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler was the last Miami player on the practice floor Tuesday, getting shot after shot after shot into the air.
Everyone else was long gone, getting ready for the flight to Boston for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals — a series that starts Wednesday night. But Butler remained, not leaving until he determined he had done enough.
And nobody was surprised.
“It's the most competitive time of the year,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said as he watched Butler keep firing on the far end of the court. “And as a competitor, he’s one of those guys who competes at literally everything. Cards, UNO games ... he's just the ultimate competitor.”
Butler will now try to keep writing the ultimate playoff story. Miami is the second No. 8 seed ever to make the conference finals, the first to do so in a full 82-game season. New York did it in 1999 after labor strife shortened the regular season to 50 games.
He's averaging 31.1 points in the playoffs — no player left in the NBA's final four averaged that many through the first two rounds. And a team that struggled to get out of the play-in round is now eight wins away from the championship he's always wanted.
“More than anything it’s just the belief that we have in one another, the belief that you must have in yourself to realize how special you can be in this league, in this moment, in this organization,” Butler said. “I think everybody’s bought into that. Everybody’s confident. I don’t even know if overconfident is what you would call it, but it’s a thing. And our guys are playing some incredible basketball. So that ‘Heat Culture,’ the confidence that ‘Heat Culture’ instills in each and every one of us is very real.”
After the Heat lost at home in Game 7 of the East finals to Boston last year — a game where Miami roared back from a big second-half deficit, only to fall 100-96 — Butler made a prediction. “Next year,” he said that night, “we will have enough and we’re going to be right back in the same situation, and we’re going to get it done.”
It wasn't said in any obnoxious or boastful way; it was simply Jimmy being Jimmy. His confidence is infectious, and he believes Miami has enough to win a title.
“We're very capable of it,” Butler said. “We have enough. Guys are playing some incredible basketball. I like our chances — as does everybody in this organization.”
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