Jimmy Butler, Heat keep calm as Celtics dominate Game 5 of East Finals

Nick FriedelESPN staff writerMay 26, 2023, 12:31 a.m. ETRead for 4 minutes

Butler is confident that Heat will win Game 6

Jimmy Butler preaches positivity and confidence after Game 5 Heat drop to the Celtics.

BOSTON – Jimmy Butler still believes the Miami Heat will close out the Boston Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals, despite two consecutive losses that cut their series lead to 3-2.

After losing Game 5 110-97 Thursday night in a raucous TD Garden, the Heat has lost by a combined 30 points in its past two potential close-out games. So why does Butler, who walked around outside the locker room and quietly ate popcorn after the game, still have such confidence in his team’s chances?

“Because the last two games are not who we are,” he said. “It was just the way it was. We stopped defending half way through because we weren’t getting the shots we wanted to make. But that’s easy to correct. You just have to come out and play harder from the jump. As I always say, it’s going to be one and already be smiles and we will keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing that we are going to win the next game.

For one of the first times in his torrid postseason run, Butler failed to live up to the sky-high standard he’s set for himself over the past month, scoring 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field as the Celtics dominated from start to finish .

“Our offense was a bit disjointed,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “We weren’t able to start our offense, get the ball where we needed it to go into places where you could operate. If we can get Jimmy into his comfort zones and power zones more consistently, he’ll be fine.”

That was the feeling in a Heat locker room that didn’t freak out, despite the fact that the No. 2 seeded Celtics play with a newfound sense of confidence on both ends of the floor.

“I think you just have to put him on a steady diet, and we know he’ll find it,” Heat big man Kevin Love said of Butler. “Just based on who he is, based on the numbers, we have no doubt that he will come out in Game 6 and be Jimmy Butler.”

The composure Butler displayed after the Heat’s past two losses seemed to permeate the locker room, where his teammates expressed confidence that they will still be able to find their way, especially as guard Gabe Vincent, who missed Game 5 due to a sprain left hand single, may return in Game 6.

“Why should we lose faith?” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “When we started this journey, no one believed in us. Everyone thought we would be out in the first round. Everyone thought we would be out in the second round. And now here we are one game away. For us, we We’ve always had faith and that’s not going away.”

Spoelstra didn’t believe his team would get an emotional letdown.

“Who Cares About the Vote?” said Spoelstra. “We have a gnarly bunch. I think a lot of that is overrated. It’s a competitive series. You always expect things to be challenging in the conference finals. One game doesn’t lead to the next. Based on all the experience that we’ve had, it doesn’t matter in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if you lose because of anything.

“We beat them with anything in Game 3. It just doesn’t matter. It’s about collectively preparing and putting together a great game. We’ll play much better on Saturday. That’s all we need to focus on right now. “

So will Game 6 on Saturday night in Miami feel like a Game 7?

“No, it feels like a Game 6,” Love said with a chuckle. “But they’re a hungry team. And if you’re behind 3-0 and win with us and then win here, you can see them fighting for everything, clawing for everything, and now both teams are going to feel that, so we have to come out and have a great show and set the tone at home.

And the key to doing that Saturday night is to get Butler rolling quickly after being kept relatively in check in Games 4 and 5.

“We just have to play better,” Butler said. “Start the game better, with the starters, make it more difficult for them. They have been in a rhythm since the beginning of the game. But we always stay positive, knowing that we can and will win this series. We will just have to finish it at home .”

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