The Heat and Thunder met on Wednesday night in a battle between mid-seeds in the East and West, with Oklahoma City able to sew up the 5-seed out West with a win and secure a matchup with the Houston Rockets in the first round.
Miami, which is locked into a matchup already with Indiana after the Pacers win earlier in the day, came out as aggressive as ever, and the game lived up its billing as a showdown between two of the league’s most pleasant surprises this season — and edgiest squads. That edge for both comes from their star players and leaders in Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler, and unsurprisingly, those two had a bit of a spat late in the second quarter.
Paul stripped Duncan Robinson in the corner and then had plenty to say to the young sharpshooter, and then after stealing the inbounds pass from Butler to Robinson, pelted Robinson in the back with the ball to avoid being trapped in the corner and give OKC possession.
— SneakerReporter (@TravisSingleton) August 13, 2020
It is an incredibly Chris Paul sequence, and on the next trip down the floor, Butler made sure to send Paul a message on behalf of his teammate, dipping his shoulder into Paul’s chest and knocking him to the floor.
After the game, Butler was asked about the brief back-and-forth and made it clear that he won’t tolerate anyone, even a friend like CP3, going after his young teammates.
“You mess with one of my guys, especially one of my shooters, then you gotta deal with me and everybody else.”
Jimmy Butler talks about CP3 throwing the ball at Duncan Robinson. pic.twitter.com/azYPLsBJQo
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 13, 2020
We likely won’t to see any further payoff of a Butler-CP3 pester-off in the bubble, but it’s clear that both stars are looking to set a tone for their teams going into the playoffs. Paul, in a game that was meaningful but not absolutely critical for OKC, was continuing to give it all on the defensive end and do anything he could to win his team extra possessions, while Butler sticks up for his guys and only continues to assert himself as a leader on the Heat who will do what’s necessary for his teammates.