Despite having to settle for the East’s eighth seed, Jimmy Butler knew the Miami Heat could go this far in the playoffs.
“Damn right I did,” Butler said after Miami’s 123-116 Game 1 conference finals win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. “Damn right we did. And the best part about it is we still don’t care what none of y’all think, honestly speaking.
“We don’t care if you pick us to win. We never have, we never will. We know the group of guys we have in this locker room.”
Miami didn’t instill much confidence after going 44-38 during the regular season and dropping its first play-in tournament game to the Atlanta Hawks. But after beating the Chicago Bulls to clinch the final conference berth, the Heat seemingly flipped a switch, powering through the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five opening-round games before bouncing the New York Knicks in Round 2.
On Wednesday, their unexpected run showed no signs of slowing down, with Butler proving a crucial reason why. The 33-year-old posted a game-high 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting and added seven assists, five rebounds, and a season-high-tying six steals. He helped the Heat erase a double-digit deficit in the second half and steal home-court advantage from the Celtics.
Miami has won Game 1 on the road in all three of its series so far, to which Butler credits the close-knit squad’s chemistry.
“More than anything, we’re staying together, through the good and through the bad. It is a game of runs, and we can talk to one another,” he told reporters.
“I think that’s what ultimately makes me smile is the fact that when things aren’t going our way, we can look at each other eye to eye and know when somebody’s messing around, and we can fix it. … Got a win, but that’s not enough for us, and we want to get another one in two days.”
Game 2 tips off Friday in Boston at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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