Nick FriedelESPN staff writer5 minutes to read
boston – Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler has spent his life beating people who underestimated him, so it should come as no surprise that he’s at the center of a hard-fought 111-105 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. On Friday night, Butler made forward Grant Williams pay for trash-talking him.
The pivotal sequence came midway through the fourth quarter after Williams ran out a three-pointer to give the Celtics a 96-87 lead with 6:37 left. On his way back to the ground, Williams started to tackle Butler, who proceeded to smile and then responded by hitting his next shot and missing Williams on a three-point play.
After the basket, Butler immediately came face to face with Williams as the pair exchanged words and each was assessed a technical foul. The Heat closed out the game at 24-9 and left Boston with an amazing 2-0 series lead.
Butler admitted that the exchange got him rolling.
“Yeah, it did,” Butler said. “But this is just competition at its best. He hits a big shot, and he starts talking to me. I love it. I’m all for it. It makes me key in a lot. It pushes me to win so much more. It makes me smile. It just is.”
“When people talk to me I’m like, ‘Okay, I know I’m a decent player, if you want to talk to me than anybody you can talk to. But it’s just competition. I respect him, though. It’s a big part of what they’re trying to do. He makes the switch. He can Shoot the ball. I don’t know if you’re the best person to talk to.”
Butler, who scored nine of his team-high 27 points after Williams’ initial words, once again showed why he was the best player in the postseason by having the clutch play down the stretch. After the match, his teammates were surprised that Williams had pushed their superstar to that point, but were glad he did.
“I knew he was going to be useful to us,” Heat guard Caleb Martin said. “Knowing Jimmy, at that point in the game, you push him to go, and we’re going to go crazy any time. I knew you could kind of see in his eyes that he was ready to go through with it.”
For his part, Williams defended his response to Butler, stating that he wouldn’t back down from anyone on the ground.
“I think he said something and I just replied,” Williams said. “I’m a competitor, and I’m going to fight. He got the best of me tonight, and at the end of the day, it’s out of respect, because I’m not going to run from him. My mom always knew me and my dad too, you get kicked ass and you don’t come home until you’re in the fight again. Either that You come back before you die or you come back and win, and I’m not ready to die in this Finals. I’m ready to win. I’m ready to go back to Game Three with a better mentality, and I know this team is.
“So at the end of the day, tonight is the night. We have to focus and let this hurt, but at the end of the day, we have to come in tomorrow and really focus on what’s next.”
Williams said he expects this kind of performance from Butler whether or not it gives him extra motivation.
“Regardless of whether or not I light him tonight, he will,” Williams said. “For me, it’s a matter of understanding, yeah, sure, you ‘pricked a bear’. And how are you going to respond? Because for me, he’s made some hard shots. It’s a battle. And I’m going to keep fighting. He’s going to have to make every shot hard the rest of the series. I’m not going to turn around and see.” In another way, because I respect him as a parent player.
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra shrugged when asked about the confrontation between Butler and Williams.
“Look, I love that evil version of Jimmy, but you get that regardless,” Spoelstra said. “I think people are paying more attention to him now that we’ve won a few games in the postseason the last few years. Jimmy is just a real contender.”
Aside from the moment with Williams, what Butler and Spoelstra agreed on is a mantra that has defined the No. 8-ranked Heat’s career through the postseason: No matter what challenges they face, the group always feels they will find a way to win. .
“We see it practically every day,” Butler said. “On days off, guys are constantly working on their game. Guys are constantly studying film. Guys just want to win. At the end of the day, that’s all anyone on this list wants. If you ask them to do something, like as long as it’s in order to win, they’ll They will. Nobody on this list is stupid. So they can know when it comes to winning and when it comes to telling them something, because the end goal is to win.”
Spoelstra echoed that sentiment.
“Looks like that’s just been our presence all year,” Spoelstra said. “I think nobody really cared. But we’re in — every game, it felt like for weeks on end, every game was finishing at the last second, whether we were shooting it or the other team was shooting it.
“So you develop some grit from that. Whether that turns into confidence or not, sometimes you don’t have confidence. But at least you have that experience of going through things and realizing how tough they are.”
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.
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