After a lopsided Game 1 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat would be seen as a sizable underdog under any circumstances in the 2020 NBA Finals. After all, the Lakers entered the best-of-seven match-up as a substantial betting favorite and, with the two best players on the floor, Los Angeles taking a 1-0 lead was always going to inspire a sharp reaction. With that as the backdrop, things got worse for Miami with the revelation that both Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo are listed as doubtful for Game 2, and the Heat are fighting an unquestioned uphill battle as a result.
Still, the Heat do have a star-level player in Jimmy Butler and, in catching up with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Thursday, Butler didn’t shy away from additional responsibility, while also expressing big-time confidence.
A sneak peek at my conversation with Jimmy Butler, which airs tomorrow on ABC. On Goran Dragic & Bam Adebayo being doubtful for Game 2, Jimmy says: "We need those guys, don't get me wrong…but to put it in the most simple way possible, who cares? We're still expecting to win." pic.twitter.com/f3Ua78Mntb
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 1, 2020
It certainly isn’t a surprise to hear Butler say the Heat expect to win, but the gaping hole on offense is one that he is seemingly ready to fill.
“I think so,” Butler said when asked if he needs to put his fingerprints more on every possession. “I gotta be able to do more. I gotta impact the game a lot more than I ever have before. Right now, in the next four wins for us, we have to play damn near perfect basketball, but we’re going to have to impact the game in so many more ways.”
Dragic has been the team’s leading scorer throughout the playoffs, and the former All-Star seemingly rekindled his offensive game at exactly the right time. From there, Adebayo makes everything work for Miami, operating from the elbow as a tremendous passer, attacking the rim with vigor and crashing the glass in a dynamic way. As such, there is nothing that Butler can to replace all of their contributions.
However, Butler is capable of taking on a larger role and, at the risk of being reductive about the NBA process, the Heat simply aren’t likely to win if he doesn’t make a substantial offensive leap in Game 2. Butler has a documented and successful history as a No. 1 option but, for a Miami team with a diverse, egalitarian offense, he can usually save some of his individual heroics for crunch time. Butler will have the help of Tyler Hero, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn and others but, simply put, he has to carry a significant workload while his cohorts are on the sideline.