Jimmy Butler seems confident the Heat can knock off the Knicks on Friday — especially if he never leaves the court.
“If [coach Erik Spoelstra] he tells me to play 48 minutes, I’m going to be prepared and ready to do that,” Butler said. “And we will win.”
The delivery made “we’re going to win” feel more like a throwaway than a guarantee from Miami’s best player, but it certainly continued Butler’s theme of certainty in his postgame presser. For the first time in these playoffs, he was decisively outplayed by an opponent, Jalen Brunson, who actually played all 48 minutes in Game 5 on Wednesday and kept New York’s heart beating for at least a few more days.
Now some of the pressure shifts back to the Heat, who must win at home Friday night to avoid a Game 7 on the road.
“I don’t think losing is encouraging,” Butler said. “I hope the only way is up here. So we will be better in the next game.”
Butler’s 19 points in Game 5 were his lowest in 10 postseason games, and for the Knicks, much of the credit went to Quentin Grimes. The defensive specialist, like Brunson, never rested Wednesday night. They became the first Knicks duo to log all 48 minutes in a playoff game since Walt Frazier and Jerry Lucas in 1972.
More than 50 years ago.
Grimes saved his most impressive game for the final minutes, a defensive stop that helped seal the 112-103 victory. After being hit by Bam Adebayo on a screen with 1:50 left and a six-point Knicks lead, Grimes came up limping but recovered quickly enough to face Butler on the perimeter.
Going through the first two steps, Grimes anticipated Butler’s right-handed dribble and stripped the soon-to-be star. It was in the middle of a crucial 90-second scoreless stretch from Miami.
“I just twisted my knee on the screen, but I’m in the playoffs,” Grimes said. “You have to do everything you can to win. This is what you live for, this is what you watched as a child. So I knew I was a little bit hurt, but that’s not going to stop me from doing whatever I can to stop or disrupt the game.”
It was a redeeming performance from Grimes, who struggled in the opening round against Cleveland, suffered a shoulder injury and was held out of the starting lineup for the first three games of the Miami series.
“[Butler’s] he was probably the best playoff player ever. So knowing that I have that game every night, I have to be more disciplined and probably have to play 48,” Grimes said.
Butler, who played the entire second half and finished with 43 minutes and nine assists, said his low scoring output wasn’t a reflection of New York’s defense — but rather an intentional approach to involve teammates.
“I was making all the right plays. I’m not a scorer anyway,” he said. “Nineteen is enough for us to win. If we take a few more photos, I don’t think the question is asked in exactly the same way. It doesn’t matter if I roll 40 or 50, 19 or 9, we always have enough to win. And if I score 10 points in the next game and we win, that won’t be a problem, it won’t be a question, and I’ll keep playing the right way.”
The problem with that strategy is The Heat have no offensive firepower outside of Butlerwho needed to score 56 points and 42 points to knock off the Bucks in the final two games of Round 1.
Now he’s anticipating a Heat win and a Knicks sweep Friday night, while Brunson, the Game 5 hero, has been blocked from returning to Madison Square Garden.
“Nothing to celebrate,” Brunson said. “We obviously won, let’s see another day. That’s great, but we’ve got to go get one down there.”