The Miami Heat are .500 after losing 119-111 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, and guard Jimmy Butler is not happy about it. He told reporters after the game that he thought the Heat, who are the defending Eastern Conference champions, have been playing "soft" as they've lost three consecutive games and 10 of their last 16.
"We’re just being soft. That’s it,” Butler said. “Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”
One of the Heat's woes is that they average 41.7 rebounds per game, 28th in the league. Butler specifically pointed out center Bam Adebayo as a player who needs improvement.
"I want Bam to attack the rim because nobody can stay in front of him," the five-time All-Star said. "Nobody can stay in front of him. Go! You’re going to get fouled or you’re going to dunk on somebody. That's cool. I love him shooting mid-range jumpers too but he lets people off the hook. Play bully ball. I like bully ball."
There are 16 games left in the season and the Heat are seventh in the Eastern Conference, 1½ games behind the New York Knicks. This year, the top six teams qualify for the playoffs while the seventh- through 10th-place teams will participate in a play-in tournament.
It's a far cry from the NBA playoffs six months ago when the Heat, as a No. 5 seed, upset the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics to reach the Finals. Adebayo had a double-double in the series-winner against the Celtics while young stars Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro blossomed.
Herro became the youngest player in NBA history to start an NBA Finals game when the Heat met the Lakers in the championship series. He averaged 15.9 points in 21 games with five starts in the playoffs. His success even inspired rapper Jack Harlow's Hot 100 hit "Tyler Herro."
This week, Herro had four and five points in the Heat's last two games. He's averaging 14.9 points per game with a 42.5% throughout the season.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.