Heat's Jimmy Butler can't do it all against Celtics – USA TODAY

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Jimmy Butler scored 41 points in Game 1. Along with nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks — an incredible performance — that was enough for the Miami Heat.
Butler had 29 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal in Game 2 and it wasn’t close to enough in the Boston Celtics’ 127-102 victory.
Butler needs help.
The question is simple: Who can provide it?
The answer is complicated against the league’s No.1 defense that has slowed Brooklyn and Kevin Durant, Milwaukee and Giannis Antetokounmpo and now is focused on Butler and a Miami team missing injured point guard Kyle Lowry.
Butler put a lot of Miami’s offensive shortcomings on himself.
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“I have to do a better job of getting everybody else involved, if I’m being brutally honest,” he said after Game 2. “I have to find that fine medium, that fine line in between when to be aggressive and when to make sure that I can get guys open.
“You know, I’ve got to basically do Kyle’s job and make sure guys are in spots where they can be comfortable and be the most successful. That’s on me. I don’t think that’s on Spo (Heat coach Erik Spoelstra). I don’t think that’s on Bam (Adebayo). I think it’s my job, because I got the ball a lot of the times, to make sure that everybody is comfortable and getting the shots that they need to have.”
That’s what Butler should say. There are significant responsibilities and expectations on Butler, who raises his intensity and production in the playoffs.
“He’s got to do whatever we need, and that’s going to be like A to Z on the menu,” Spoelstra said.
Try as he may, Butler can’t do it all.
Getting Lowry back from a strained left hamstring would help Miami’s offense. But the Heat can’t count on that. Hamstring injuries are nuisances that can linger. The encouraging news is that Lowry has been upgraded to questionable for Game 3 on Saturday.
Butler tried to absolve Spoelstra and his teammates. But that’s not feasible at this time of the year, and Spoelstra knows that.
“We just have to figure some things out where we can get to what we want to get to, even though they are trying to take away what we want to get to,” said the two-time championship coach who this season was named one of the 15 greatest of all time.
The Celtics countered Miami’s offense with several defensive attacks. They switched on a lot of pick-and-rolls, sprung unexpected double-teams and traps and kept Adebayo from working out of his favored spots at the foul line’s elbow. Tyler Herro isn’t exempt either. He showed the ability to take Celtics defenders off the dribble and score at the rim, but he couldn’t do it enough and he didn’t couple it with his 3-point shooting.
After Butler, Adebayo and Herro, Miami needs better offense from Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and P.J. Tucker — the final three also listed as questionable for Saturday’s game.
“I got to look to use my teammates,” Butler said. “They have been there for me all year long and I got to get back to that because whenever they are scoring, whenever they are aggressive, we are a much better team. …
“I’ll watch the film and I promise you, I will figure it out. But I’ll get these guys open.”
Boston’s Marcus Smart (right foot sprain) and Al Horford (COVID health and safety protocols) returned in Game 2 after missing Game 1. Their presence was felt on both ends but especially defensively and in a small-ball lineup with Grant Williams, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the court. Their length and versatility allow all five defenders to guard different Heat players.
“We are facing a very good defense, so we have to do things with great detail, with purpose,” Spoelstra said. “They can flatten you out, just like we can flatten teams out. This is the thing about competition. We have two really good defensive teams. When we are at our best, we can make them look a certain way, and they definitely made us look a certain way (in Game 2).”
The Celtics will continue to make offense difficult on the Heat, just as they did on the Nets and the Bucks.
Throughout the playoffs, Butler has lamented that the Heat sometimes let their offensive woes affect their defense. He called it a season-long trend.
“When we’re not making shots, we’re not guarding anybody,” Butler said. “So we need to fix that once again where we worry about defense first. The offense will come.”
The Heat need to end that trend now if they want to win this series because Boston won’t all of sudden stop playing high-level defense.
What Butler, Spoelstra and the Heat come up with (or don’t) in Game 3 will determine the direction of the series.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.


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