‘Playoff Jimmy’ Isn’t Just A Nickname… He’s Actually That Guy
(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
— Updated on 17 May 2023

‘Playoff Jimmy’ Isn’t Just A Nickname… He’s Actually That Guy

— Updated on 17 May 2023

There’s an old conspiracy theory among certain NBA fans that Jimmy Butler is the long-lost son of Michael Jordan. The evidence is flimsy: it’s largely based on their passing resemblance, a vague timeline, and the fact that he used to wear the number 23. However, watching Jimmy Buckets play could also give you that impression. When that guy flips a switch, there’s nobody on this earth that can match him.

Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat have just pulled off the upset of the decade, eliminating Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks – the team with the best record in the NBA – during the first round. They became only the sixth No. 8 seeded team to achieve this in NBA history, as well as the first play-in team to ever win a series.

The Heat earned this matchup with the Bucks after losing their first game of the play-in tournament to the Atlanta Hawks, before winning their second chance game against the Chicago Bulls. Nobody expected them to beat the Bucks. They were listed at -1200 odds to win this series, making it the fourth-largest upset since 1988.

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It cannot be understated how bad this Miami Heat team is in comparison to the Milwaukee Bucks. The roster is filled with buyout market guys and undrafted players. Tyler Herro, arguably the team’s second-best shot creator and player, was injured in the first game of this series and ruled out for the series requiring surgery. To go up against the best defence in the NBA – led by the former two-time MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP in Antetokounmpo – really didn’t give the Heat much hope for a win. Until Jimmy did this:

Game 1: 35 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds
Game 2: 25 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds
Game 3: 30 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds
Game 4: 56 points, 2 assists, 9 rebounds
Game 5: 42 points, 4 assists, 8 rebounds

If you’re about to rush to the defence of the Bucks and point out Giannis’ injury and absence in the two early games, just save it. This was a spectacular collapse.

In the final game of the series, the Bucks held a 16-point lead at three-quarter time. Jimmy Butler had a fourth quarter for the ages, complete with an off-balanced layup in the final seconds of regulation to tie the score. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, despite having a timeout remaining, didn’t advance the ball for whatever reason, and the game went to overtime.

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Giannis had 38 points and 20 rebounds for the Bucks but shot only 10 of 23 on free-throw attempts. Khris Middleton added 33 points. It was an incredible late-game meltdown, with the team shooting 5 of 25 from the field in the final quarter and overtime. The Heat’s Bam Adebayo fouled out in the final minutes of the game and Jimmy Butler looked as if he was completely gassed. Nursing a single-possession lead, Miami just had to outlast Milwaukee.

The Heat would end up winning the game 128-126, making Jimmy Butler the first Miami player in history to register consecutive 40-point playoff games. Not Dwyane Wade. Not LeBron James. Not Alonzo Mourning. Jimmy goddamn Butler.

“We were resilient,” Butler said after the win.

“We were down late… but we stayed with it. Whatever it takes to win… I gotta be able to do it all.”

The Heat will now face the fifth-seed New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, who completed their own 4-1 series triumph over the favoured Cleveland Cavaliers.

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