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WASHINGTON — Even while he is getting buckets, Jimmy Butler remains more concerned with giving help. But the Miami Heat’s leading man also appreciates offering what is needed.
For the past two games, that has meant filling the scoring column, with 31 points in Wednesday night’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans and then 32 on Thursday night in the victory over the Washington Wizards to complete the back-to-back set of games at FTX Arena.
“I think, if I’m being brutally honest, I think I’ve got to do a better job of getting my other guys involved,” Butler said, as the Heat turned their attention to Saturday night’s rematch against the Wizards at Capital One Arena. “I think I can score the ball decently well. But it’s really so much easier if I’m getting the ball to guys when they’re open and make sure guys are getting open shots.
“I think sometimes I just get lost in trying to put the ball in the basket. It’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But I like to be a pass-first player. I like to involve my teammates.”
And he has, as well, with 15 assists the past two games.
But it is the scoring that has been needed, with Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo given the night off in Wednesday’s victory, and then Tyler Herro sitting out Thursday. Butler exited Thursday’s game 11th in the league in scoring, ahead of the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Wednesday and Thursday games marked the ninth time in his career Butler has recorded consecutive 30-point games, with an opportunity to tie his longest career such streak Saturday.
Yet ask the coaching staff about the complete Butler, and they point to the other end of the court, with Butler fifth in the NBA in steals per game.
“He has great closing speed and anticipation,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And he has a great knack and eye for those kind of plays. He sees plays happen two or three steps ahead of it. I don’t even think you can teach that.
“I think he just has this closing speed. Probably every two or three games, he’ll have a steal that surprises me and everybody else on the bench. But you got to have that whole package to be able to do that. And I think when you play with some extreme quickness, he can get to that a little bit more.”
The combination has Butler in the early-season awards talk, conversion he said he tunes out.
“I don’t need none of that,” he said. “I need a championship here. That’s all we’re worried about. All those individual things, they can keep it. I mean, I can hear it, obviously. I’m not crazy. But it doesn’t do anything for me.”
But, Wizards guard Bradley Beal said, it certainly does something for the Heat.
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“He was being aggressive from start to finish,” Beal said of Thursday’s game. “We all know he is an All-NBA caliber player, so it is not like we should be surprised by what he is doing. We all know he is a great defender, but I think he is really taking it upon his shoulders to be the offensive weapon for the team this year.
“He is being more aggressive and making teams respect his offensive abilities.”
For his part, Butler will leave the platitudes to others, just as he almost grimaced when asked about Thursday’s victory moving the Heat into first place in the Eastern Conference.
“See, we’re the type of team, if we start listening to everybody else, if we start reading what everybody says about us in the media, we go out there and get smacked,” he said, with the Heat carrying a four-game winning streak into Saturday’s start of a four-game trip. “So you can’t hit me with that. It happened already.
“We just need to keep our head down, keep competing, keep playing the right style of basketball that we want to play. We don’t care about what anybody says. We don’t care about the rankings. Yo win as many games as you can. You do it together. You see where you’ll end up at the end.”