The Miami Heat have had many superstars in the Pat Riley era, from Alonzo Mourning to Dwyane Wade to LeBron James to Shaquille O’Neal, who famously and repeatedly paraphrased Aristotle to say “excellence is what you repeatedly do.”
Now Jimmy Butler, their new superstar – and yes, he’s a superstar – has repeatedly done it in the NBA Finals. Butler followed a ridiculous 40 points, 11 rebound, 13 assist performance in Game 3 with an even more impactful 35 points, 11 rebound, 12 assist effort in which he played 47-plus minutes and still made every critical play down the stretch.
Is he good for a third, in Game 6?
Right now, it appears the Heat will need it. Goran Dragic isn’t likely to return. Erik Spoelstra has shelved Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, Solomon Hill and Derrick Jones Jr., shrinking the rotation to a thin seven.
So that’s the first key to the Heat extending the series.
Can Butler do it again? Sources close to him believe he can, since he’s the healthiest he’s been all season, with nagging toe, ankle, shoulder and elbow injuries calming down.
The other two keys?
Bam vs. AD: Anthony Davis’s heel was an issue in Game 5, even though he posted a strong stat line. Bam Adebayo, still getting back from a neck injury, didn’t look right until late, struggling around the rim and showing too little overall aggression. Now, as video surfaced of Davis punching the back of Jae Crowder’s neck, it’s not even entirely clear that Davis will be available. If he is, this is the matchup to watch, even if they aren’t matched up against each other all the time. We haven’t seen the Adebayo from the Boston series in this one. If he appears, Miami can move to Game 7.
Shooting stays hot for Heat: Miami shot 40 percent or better from deep in 30 of 67 regular season games, but had done it only four times in the playoffs prior to Friday, when it shot 42 percent, with Duncan Robinson (seven threes) finally finding his form. They win nearly all the time when they do so. It’s a make or miss league, and this is how the Heat can make things really difficult.
The Better Bet: By all rights, the Lakers should end this in Game 6. But that was also true in Game 5. Take the Heat to cover the spread.
-- by Juicy-J