So what was Jimmy Butler expecting Wednesday night during his second visit to the Wells Fargo Center as a Miami Heat player?
“A basketball game,” the former 76ers forward said sarcastically, after Wednesday’s shootaround at Temple, about facing his former team.
Butler was booed whenever he touched the ball in Miami’s 113-86 loss to the Sixers on Nov. 23 at the arena. Surely, he was expecting the same type of reaction from the Philly faithful who think he chose Miami’s sign-and-trade opportunity over remaining a Sixer.
“I don’t give a ---- about no boos, man,” Butler said. “Let’s stick to basketball. Everybody wants to talk about some boos. It’s a basketball game.”
Later, asked why he’s good a fit for Miami, Butler responded, “I’m done with interviews,” before walking away.
Well, as they say, that’s “Jimmy being Jimmy.”
But the Heat aren’t complaining. Miami had the conference’s fourth-best record, 19-8 heading into the game. Miami was 11-16 through 27 games last season. Butler is the biggest reason for that improvement.
The four-time All-Star was averaging 21.2 points, 6.8 assists, 6.4 rebounds and a league second-best 2.09 steals.
“There’s a reason why we chased him so hard and backed up the Brinks truck to get a [maximum-salary] player,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the four-year, $142 million contract Butler received in the sign-and-trade. “That’s the idea. We have a guy we believe that can take us to a different level.
“That’s what he’s doing right now. It’s reflective of our record and the way guys are playing around him and with him.”
Butler’s 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting against the Sixers in his previous visit represent his second-lowest scoring output of the season.
Stingy three-point defense
The Sixers averaged the league’s fewest successful three-point shots allowed at 9.4 per game heading into the matchup. The Denver Nuggets were second at 9.9, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder (10.3).