Coming into their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, one of the biggest questions about the top-seeded Miami Heat was how they would create consistent late-game offense. Miami finished the regular season ranked 24th in clutch offense and 21st in fourth quarter offense. They blew the Hawks out in Game 1, so it didn’t matter.
In Game 2, the Heat answered some questions.
Jimmy Butler was relentless with 45 points, and he took complete control in crunch time. Every time the Hawks — who didn’t play well but managed to hang around long enough to have a chance late — made a push, Butler had the answer. After Atlanta had cut Miami’s lead to three with 3:15 to play, Butler scored seven straight to put Miami back up 10 with 1:20 remaining, and Atlanta never got it back under double digits as the Heat took a 2-0 series lead with a 115-105 victory.
Interesting note: Butler has been a horrendous 3-point shooter during the regular season in his time with the Heat (24 percent in his first two seasons and 23 percent this year), but he’s been much better in the playoffs. He shot 35 percent from deep in the bubble and so far this postseason he’s 5-or-9 from 3.
Butler knocked down four of his seven 3s on Tuesday and, generally speaking, his aggression as a shooter has consistently gone up in the postseason with Miami. That trend appears to be continuing.
Before we anoint Butler as the closer the Heat need, however, let’s keep in mind who he’s doing this against. The Hawks are nothing short of a dreadful defense.
In my preview of this series, I talked about the Trae Young offense-defense tradeoff and how it can only come out as a positive for Atlanta if Young dominates offensively, because his defense completely drowns an Atlanta defense that is already barely treading water.
Suffice it to say, Young has not been dominant offensively in this series. He finished with eight points on 1-for-12 shooting in Game 1, and had had 10 turnovers and shots 2-for-10 from 3 in Game 2. Frankly, that Atlanta was even close down the stretch of this game with Young playing like that was a small miracle.
Early in the game, a lot of weird caroms went Atlanta’s way that turned into “look what I found” buckets. Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a bunch of really tough shots — 12-of-18 overall and 5-of-10 from 3 — to finish with 29 points. No way does Atlanta keep this game at all close without Bogi.
Courtesy: CBS Sports