Jimmy Butler’s best arriving right on schedule for Heat: ‘You just kind of watch the magic’ – The Denver Post

From the moment the Miami Heat signed Jimmy Butler to his four-year, $184 million extension in August 2021, the question was how the contract, one that carries him through his 38th birthday, would age.

So far, particularly at the moment, the answer is to perfection.

And for more than the 35 points he scored in Wednesday night’s 127-120 victory over the New York Knicks at Miami-Dade Arena.

It was yet another moment of Butler meeting the moment amid the Heat’s scramble for Eastern Conference playoff seeding, with an arguably even more meaningful moment at hand Saturday against the visiting Brooklyn Nets, a game that could allow the Heat to move into No. 6 in the conference,

“I mean, honestly, it’s really winning time right now,” Butler said.

Wednesday marked the ninth consecutive game Butler scored 20 or more, tying his longest streak since joining the Heat in the 2019 offseason. Over those nine games, he is averaging 28.5 points. Further, in his 15 games since the All-Star break, he is averaging 26.3 points per game on .605 shooting (121 of 200).

“We see it every year around this time of the year,” guard Tyler Herro said. “Around this time of the year, that’s what he does.”

Butler, 33, has now scored 20 or more a team-leading 40 times this season, including nine 30-point games.

And he has been doing it the hard way recently, tying his career best by getting to the foul line at least 10 times in each of the past five games.

And he has been doing it on both ends, Wednesday night’s four steals marking the 11th time he has had at least four in a game.

“I would say Jimmy is a generational competitor,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And when things really ramp up and there becomes way more consequences and pressure, that’s when he’s going to compete and play at his best. That’s an incredible skill set to have.

“In a league that’s probably becoming a little bit younger, and then players are trying to figure things out, the real competitors can really stand out. Jimmy at the top of the food chain as a competitor.”

His teammates recognize as much.

So sometimes it becomes as simple as getting out of the way.

“We let him hoop. I mean, what else are we supposed to do?” center Bam Adebayo said with a smile.

“He’s been on his stretch right now, so we’ve just been going to him. The numbers don’t lie. He’s putting up numbers and he’s being efficient. So we’ve just got to keep rolling with him and letting him hoop.”

It’s all as if right on schedule, with just eight games left in the regular season for the Heat.

“He’s just in a groove right now,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “And we just got to find ways to maximize that groove. For us to be able to have a guy like that, doing things that he’s doing, you just kind of watch the magic.”

Lately that magic has been there for the outset, far less of Butler pacing himself toward his typical take-charge finishes.

“I know I can get my guys involved, still,” he said, closing with nine assists Wednesday. “Maybe I’ve got to attack earlier and make them guard me, so they get open shots. That’s kind of like the mentality right now.

“But I’m always playing to win. It’s not about how many points I score. It’s not about how many rebounds or assists I get. I just pride myself on playing basketball the right way. Guarding. Making sure that everybody’s comfortable out there. And it just looks like I’m aggressive from the jump, which I might be. But all of it goes to waste if we don’t win.”

The Heat have won seven of their last 10.

“Everybody’s trying to win at this point in the season; everybody’s trying to move up,” Butler said, with only the top six seeds in each conference advancing directly to the playoffs, seeds Nos. 7-10 forced to participate in a play-in tournament for the final two playoff seeds. “Every game matters, as it has all year long. But right now for us, more than anything, we kind of have to win to be where we want to be. But I like it like that.”

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