Nick FriedelESPN staff writer4 minutes of reading
Boston — Jimmy Butler still believes the Miami Heat are going to close out the Boston Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals.
After a 110-97 Game 5 loss Thursday night inside a raucous TD Garden, the Heat have lost their last two close-out games by a combined 30 points. Why is Butler still hanging around outside the locker room, quietly eating popcorn after the game, so optimistic about his team’s chances?
Because the last two games were not us, he said. “That’s how it happened. We stopped playing defense half way through because we weren’t making the shots we wanted to make. But that’s easy to fix. You’ve got to come out and play hard from the jump. Like I always say, it’s all smiles, knowing we’re going to win the next game, and We’re going to keep it very, very steady.”
Throughout his poor postseason run, Butler hasn’t lived up to the sky-high standards he’s set for himself over the past month, scoring 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field as the Celtics dominate. From start to finish.
“Our offense fell apart a little bit,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just couldn’t get our offense going and get the ball where we need to be in the areas where you can operate. If we can get Jimmy more consistently in his comfort zones and strength zones, he’ll be fine.”
In heat locker room no. The No. 2 Celtics, playing with a renewed sense of confidence on both ends of the floor, did not panic.
“I think give him a consistent diet and we know he’ll figure it out,” Heat big man Kevin Love said of Butler. “Based on who he is, based on the numbers, we have no doubt he’s going to come out and be Jimmy Butler in Game 6.”
Butler’s composure after the Heat’s past two losses seemed to permeate the locker room, where his teammates expressed hope they could still find their way, especially Cob Vincent, who missed Game 5 with a left sprain. The ankle could return in Game 6.
“Why should we lose hope?” Warm center Bam Adebayo said. “When we started this journey, nobody believed in us. Everybody thought we were going to get out in the first round. Everybody thought we were going to get out in the second round. Now we’re here with one game to play. For us, we’re always confident, it’s not going to go away.”
Spoelstra isn’t buying the idea that his team is going to be emotional.
“Who cares about mood?” Spoelstra said. “We have a bad team. I think it’s overrated. It’s a competitive series. You always expect things to be tough in the conference finals. One game doesn’t lead to the next. Based on all the experience we had, it doesn’t matter in the playoffs, whatever you lose. It doesn’t matter.
“We beat them in Game 3. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about preparing and putting together a great game. We’ll play well on Saturday. That’s all we have to focus on now.”
Will Game 6 be like Game 7 on Saturday night in Miami?
“No, it looks like a Game 6,” Love said with a laugh. “But they’re a hungry team. And to go down 3-0 and win at our place and win here, you can tell they’re fighting for everything, fighting for everything, and now both teams are going to be there. We feel that way, so we can come out and have a great show.” and set the tone at home.”
The key to that performance Saturday night will be getting Butler rolling quickly after being put through a relative test in Games 4 and 5.
“We’ve got to play better,” Butler said. “Start the game well, the openers, make it tough for them. They’ve been in a rhythm since the beginning of the game. But we’re always going to be positive knowing we can, knowing we can win this series. We just have to close it out at home.”
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