For the first time in two months, fans were allowed in the stands, and by fans, I mean players' family members and significant others. Each player can have one guest at the game, and most of the guys are exercising that right. Most guys.
“This is a business trip for me. I'm not messing around. Everyone wants to have their family, without a doubt, but we've been doing this for this long, what's another couple months. It is an individual decision, but for me, I'm here for business.”
Judging by his Game 1 performance, Jimmy Butler really does mean business. He set his new playoff career-high with 40, joining Dwyane Wade and LeBron James as the only Heat players to reach such threshold.
The 30-year-old star erupted in the second half, scoring 27 of his 40 points, with 15 coming in the fourth quarter. Jimmy was the man behind 11 of Miami's 14 points in in the last four minutes of the game, with Tyler Herro being the only other Heat to score during the span.
Butler came up big in the clutch. Whether it was hitting floaters, knocking down mid-range turnarounds, or draining a long-range jumper - a 5x All-Star put the NBA's best defensive team to shame - and he did it all through isolation plays.
“Say what you will, but I told my teammates I probably wasn't going to pass the ball. I made a couple of shots, and they said, 'That's fine with me.' I don't know if it'll be like that next game. I hope Tyler's the one that's in a position he feels that the rim is so big that he can't miss, or Goran, or Bam. I'm telling you we got a lot of guys, and guys are so comfortable, so confident, we're ok.”
Jimmy Butler, House of Highlights
The Heat did a great job on Giannis, holding him to only 18 points in 36 minutes of action. Team defense, orchestrated by Jimmy and Bam Adebayo, made it tough on The Greek Freak to get into the paint, and when he did get there, they would send him to the free-throw line, where Giannis shot 4-for-12 for the game. Despite putting up a near triple-double, NBA's reigning MVP's impact hasn't been nearly up to standard with what he usually does on the basketball court, and it's all attributed to Erik Spoelstra's defensive machinery.
Khris Middleton put up 28, with Brook Lopez tailing up 24 points of his own, but the Bucks still came up short. Giannis's struggles and Butler's fourth-quarter takeover were too much for Milwaukee to overcome, as they found themselves down 1-0 in the series.
Wednesday will be the Bucks' chance for redemption, as they will look to tie the series at one apiece. They, as a team, have to play better, but it all starts with Giannis; he has to up his game because the Heat aren't going anywhere, and they're not intimidated with the NBA's best regular-season team. The Heat mean business.