Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler wasn't rewarded for his 40-point performance in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals this past weekend. The team fell short against the Philadelphia 76ers -- allowing the series to be knotted at two games apiece -- and it was the first time in franchise history that a Heat player scored 40-plus points in a playoff game and didn't win.
But the road loss didn't perturb Butler or affect his two-way efforts in a pivotal Game 5 at home on Tuesday night. Before a sold-out crowd inside FTX Arena, the 32-year-old veteran scored a team-high 23 points with nine rebounds and six assists in Miami's 120-85 blowout win. In league playoff history, teams that claim Game 5 for a 3-2 series lead wind up advancing 82-percent of the time. And through nine playoff games this season, Butler has averaged a team-high 28.3 points with 7.6 boards, 5.6 assists, and 2.2 steals.
"I think he always had a chip on his shoulder. I always think he was someone who had a supreme level of confidence -- feeling like he had nothing to lose because he came from nothing," NBA analyst Sarah Kustok told The DA Show on Wednesday. "We're watching players show who they are, more personality off the floor. How he is as a teammate, leadership he shows, his openness to be direct with what he thinks, it's always been a characteristic of who he is...
"The fun, the lightheartedness, and the different aspects of who Butler is as a person, I think that's always existed. Now, he's getting a chance to show that level of comfort with himself, and the way in which he enjoys being around his teammates. That's flourished and grown, but that's always been who he is, at his core. That's why the people he plays with -- and when they're with him -- do understand what he demands. Those demands come on and off the floor."
Miami, which earned the East's top seed with a 53-29 overall record, will play Game 6 against Philadelphia on Thursday night (7:00 ET tipoff) at Wells Fargo Center. According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, the Heat currently have a 76-percent chance to reach the Eastern Conference Finals and a 28-percent chance to make the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.
The entire NBA conversation between Kustok and DA can be accessed in the audio player above.