Jimmy Butler still loves himself a big moment.
The former Sixers guard and current Miami Heat star lit up the Pacers on Tuesday evening, dropping 28 points and exploding in the fourth quarter to take Game 1 in an already-spicy series. Butler was taking big shots, trash talking anyone within earshot, and he looked good doing it.
Butler’s biggest moments, unsurprisingly, came in the fourth quarter, when he took over a tight game and led Miami to a double-digit win. One day after the Sixers melted in the fourth quarter against the Celtics in their series opener, Butler’s performance stood in pretty stark contrast – and had to at least make Sixers fans a little jealous.
How good was Butler in the fourth? Dominant. Take a look at this stretch after he entered the game with 7:57 left, and the Heat up two:
7:08: Assist on a three-pointer
6:37: Defensive rebound
4:09: Blocks a T.J. Warren jumper
3:26: Makes a three-pointer
2:29: Makes a three-pointer
0:59: Makes a two-pointer
0:21: Makes two free throws
That’s 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting, including 2-of-2 from deep, with two free throws, a block, an assist, a rebound, a steal, and a turnover in eight minutes. His back-to-back threes turned a six-point edge into a 12-point cushion. The Pacers aren’t exactly world-beaters, but it was a truly great showing from Butler.
On Monday night, the Sixers lost by eight to the Celtics after being out-scored by 12 points in the fourth quarter. They only took five threes in the entire quarter – not enough – and made just one. And no one in red showed a willingness to take over.
Butler isn’t a good three-point shooter, but he’s not afraid to take those kinds of shots when the game is on the line, and he has a knack for making them. Just ask the Sixers about a couple shots in Brooklyn and Charlotte.
The Sixers don’t need Jimmy Butler, specifically, and Monday night’s outcome is likely different with Ben Simmons in the lineup. But Simmons isn’t exactly a fourth-quarter scorer, either, so the same question mark would still exist. It helps to have a guy like Butler – fearless, sometimes to a fault, and often clutch – when the games tighten up in the postseason, whether the games are played in April or August.
Last year the Sixers had a guy like that in Butler, and they nearly beat the eventual champs. Butler hit the last shot of the season for those Sixers, a game-tying layup in the waning seconds of Game 7. This year, he plays for a different team, and the Sixers will need to find their own closer if they want to advance.
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