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Butler getting served: Can star rediscover form and lead Heat to NBA championship?

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5th June, 2023

When the Joker is wreaking havoc over Gotham City, there is one man who time after time, in various different movies, comic books, TV shows and even in Lego form, has been there to stop him.

That, of course, has been the iconic superhero Batman.

While the vigilante likes to pretend he works alone, the reality is, he has several trusty servants by his side ready to help him out in any way possible. The most famous of course being his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, most famously portrayed by Michael Caine.

Alfred obviously isn’t suiting up every night to fight crime, but without the trusty butler at his side to serve his every need, it’s fair to say Batman would have a harder time taking down the Joker.

This year in the NBA finals, there has been a different Butler who is doing his best to take down Joker. That, of course, is Jimmy Butler, who is going head-to-head with two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, aka the Joker.

However, while Butler has been the lead man for the Miami Heat throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs, after games one and two of the finals, it seems as if unlike Alfred, this Butler will be the one getting served.

Over Games 1 and 2, Butler has a total of 34 points, 11 rebounds, 16 assists and is shooting 39.4 per cent from the field.

Ever since Game 3 of the eastern conference finals, Butler has seemed far less aggressive on offence, has hardly driven hard to the basket and really, has been quite the shadow of the player we saw put in 56 points against the Bucks, in what was one of the greatest performances ever.


After such a poor showing in Game 1, and the Heat’s role players neglecting to show up, the expectation was that Butler would be ready to put on the cape and have yet another historic performance.

That wasn’t the case – while he did mange nine assists, he only put up 21 points and again, lacked that aggression we saw throughout most of these playoffs.

The difference though was that this time, unlike in Game 1, Miami’s role players showed up and gave Butler some top-quality silver service, meaning he didn’t need to play hero ball as the score kept ticking over without him.

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

In Game 1, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin combined for six points and four assists, overall contributing nothing to their score. Considering this trio of role players couldn’t miss a shot against the Celtics in the last round, it felt as if the finals would be a wrap if this continued.

Instead, in Game 2, the same three players combined for 27 points and eight assists, and while Martin still struggled (three points, one assist), Robinson and Strus were critical to Miami’s victory.


To start off the game it was clear Miami needed to throw the first punch and show the NBA world that despite everyone already declaring the series was over, they were here to fight and Game 1 was just an outlier.

Well Strus clearly has a solid jab, as he put his 0/10 shooting performance in the first game behind him to open up the first quarter with 12 points, all coming from beyond the arc.

Yet despite the Heat role players stepping up, they still somehow found themselves in a 15-point hole halfway through the second period, and it was starting to feel as if it didn’t matter how well the role players were playing, the Nuggets were simply the better team.

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Being down by 8 at half-time almost felt like a win for Miami, and again, despite better showings across the board, going into the fourth, Denver was up 10 and seemingly, on their way to a 2-0 series lead.

Being labelled as one of the worst contracts in the league, a defensive liability and constantly given “DNPs – Coach’s decision”, is not exactly how you would classify a successful NBA career. For Duncan Robinson his rise from undrafted player to NBA starter in the 2020 finals was unprecedented. Yet the Cinderella story struck midnight and after signing a five-year, $90 million contract, his poor form saw him buried on the bench.


Injuries to Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo forced coach Erik Spoelstra to dust off Robinson and play him this post-season, something less than ideal for the franchise, yet his Hollywood script-like career pulled yet another twist with him not only playing in the post-season, but being a key cog.

Against Boston it felt like he couldn’t miss, and while he bricked two wide open shots in Game 6 to close out the series, it didn’t matter as he was clinical in Game 7 on the road, and even taunted the TD Garden.

But after just three points in the first game against Denver and zero points after three quarters, maybe it was time to sit him for the rest of the series and give his minutes to Haywood Highsmith and Herro when, or if, he returns from injury.

Instead he bursts out of the blocks to start the fourth, knocking down a three after he sent Jamal Murray flying with a pump fake. He followed that up with a driving lay-up, a deep three-pointer and one more heavily contested lay-up off a cut to the basket.

Ten quick points and not only had Robinson swung momentum in the Heat’s favour, they’d taken back the lead.


Sure, Butler chipped in with six crucial points, one assist and played good defence on Murray to get the critical stop to win the game, but without Strus starting strong and Robinson kickstarting the fourth, Miami may have thrown in the towel and called it a day.

Now with the series at 1-1, with three of the remaining five games (if necessary) in Miami, the Heat have given themselves every chance to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

While Gabe Vincent, Kyle Lowry, Robinson, Martin and Strus have been vital to Miami’s playoff run thus far, it’s time for them to stop serving the Butler, and for playoff Jimmy to show up in the finals to serve them, as all good butlers do.