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Jimmy Butler just wants the Heat to win

ORLANDO, Fla. — The sounds of Nickelback coming from the portable speaker inside the Miami Heat locker room were unmistakable. As the rest of his teammates and the Heat staff quietly showered, dressed and munched on a postgame pizza spread following a 126-114 overtime loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday, jimmy butler he decided the time was right to turn up the volume on his stereo and play the familiar sounds of Chad Kroeger’s voice.

And Butler, who had just scored a game-high 38 points in 39 minutes, sang every word of every song.

Butler had brought his team to life by hitting a difficult 3-pointer on two Magic defenders at the regulation buzzer to send the game into overtime. But, as has become too commonplace for the Heat’s tastes this season, Butler’s performance wasn’t enough to carry the group, which fizzled out on the second night in a row.

The young Magic team regrouped after Butler’s regulation whistle, holding Butler scoreless into extra session to put the game out of reach. As the final 17 seconds of the clock ticked down, a frustrated Butler got up off the court before the game officially ended, resulting in Miami being hit with a technical foul because, without Butler, the Heat only had four players on the court. . The manager angered Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, but when asked after the game if he was aware of the call, Butler responded succinctly.

“I don’t give a damn,” he said.

It was a quintessential Jimmy Butler quote. The 33-year-old six-time All-Star will do what he wants when he wants, whether that means wearing dreadlocks on media day, listening to Nickelback after a disappointing loss, criticizing a general manager after ditching a controversial practice or any of countless other examples during his 12-year NBA career.

Who was the No. 30 overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA draft, Butler has built an incredible career for himself through hard work and determination. His self-confidence has always been his defining characteristic in a league full of confident alphas. And there is one thing that he values ​​above all else: winning.

It’s something the Heat, who came within a missed Butler 3-pointer of another trip to the Finals last season, haven’t done enough this season. After the loss to the Magic, Miami is 36-33 this season going into Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz, languishing in the front end of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, three games behind sixth place. , the New York Knicks. While Butler is having another strong season, he hasn’t received the same kind of support from his teammates that he did a year ago.

“He’s one of the best players in the NBA,” the veteran Heat point guard. Kyle Lowry said of Butler. “Both sides of the ball. It’s in his rhythm and it’s in his rhythm where he just goes and plays well. Sometimes these games come with losses, but we have to find ways to maximize this right now.”

Butler is in the midst of one of the strongest stretches of his career. In 10 games since the All-Star break, Butler is averaging 26.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 62.9% from the field. However, the Heat are just 4-6 in that stretch.

The list of players who averaged 25 points, five rebounds and five assists during the same stretch, as Butler has done, is a list of basketball’s elite: Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, luka doncic, jayson tatum, Kyrie Irving, paul george and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the season, Butler is averaging 22.6 points per game, the second-highest total of his career, and is shooting a career-best 52.8% from the field. His 8.4 free throw attempts per game are his third-highest total behind 2016-17 (8.9) and 2019-20, when he took 9-plus free throws per game en route to leading the Heat to the Finals on the bubble. from Orlando. But after finishing first in the East a season ago, Miami is having its worst season since 2018-19, the last time the Heat didn’t have Butler.

Still, Spoelstra rejects the idea that the Heat need to do more in the short term to take pressure off Butler.

“We definitely have enough,” Spoelstra said. “And really our offense has been trending in a better direction, and that hasn’t just been Jimmy. He’s been coming into our game, our offenses, our identity.”

Lowry, who returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing more than a month with left knee pain, offered his own theory about what the Heat can do to help Butler more.

“Do 3,” he said with a smile. “Making shots. Making saves and going into transition and getting the buckets easier. He’s a physical player, he wants the contact, but if we can go out there and give him a couple of possessions where he doesn’t have to get hit and hit and we can give him some points of relief, that helps.”

The Heat are shooting 33.7% from 3-point range this season, ranking 28th in the league (Butler himself is shooting 33.3% from 3-point range, which is slightly above his career mark of 32.2%)). To Spoelstra’s point though, they are shooting 39% from beyond the arc in their last five games, which is seventh-best in the league over the same span.

For Butler, the bottom line remains: the group isn’t doing enough collectively to get the job done. When asked about his shot that he tied the game over the Magic forward Wendell Carter Jr.. and guard jalen suggsButler shrugged.

“All the shots in the world didn’t help us win this game,” Butler said. “So I don’t care.”

The Heat still have time to turn things around. Seven of their last 13 games are against teams under .500, and they have two games left against the Knicks, the team directly ahead of them in the standings. But if Miami doesn’t make an effort, the Heat will waste one of Butler’s best seasons, and see another year of his prime fade away in the process.

“It sucks that he’s playing so well and we’re not winning the games that we should be,” Lowry said. “Because the numbers and the things he’s doing, it’s kind of MVP caliber right now. With us in seventh place, we’re not getting the attention that we should, he’s not getting the attention that (he) should. I know that he doesn’t care, but we have to win games. He’ll be much brighter at it.”